Math Forum - Problem of the Week

Marathon Graphing

Please keep in mind that this is a research project, and there may sometimes be glitches with the interactive software. Please let us know of any problems you encounter, and include the computer operating system, the browser and version you're using, and what kind of connection you have (dial-up modem, T1, cable).

Marathon Graphing


Here are record-breaking times for the men's marathon from all over the world. We've graphed the times and a line that models the data. You can use the line to see trends in the data.

Men's Times
Year Athlete Time
1935Kitei Son2h 26m 42s
1947Yun Bok Suh2h 25m 49s
1952Jim Peters2h 20m 43s
1954Jim Peters2h 17m 40s
1963Buddy Edelen2h 14m 28s
1969Derek Clayton 2h 8m 34s
1981Robert de Castella 2h 8m 18s
1985Carlos Lopes2h 7m 12s
1999Khalid Khannouchi2h 5m 42s

Use the applet to graph the women's times for the marathon so you can answer the questions below.

Women's Times
Year Athlete Time(Approx.
1964Dale Grieg 3h 27m 45s207
1970Caroline Walker3h 2m 53s182
1971Adrienne Beames 2h 46m 30s166
1974Jackie Hansen 2h 43m 55s164
1975Jackie Hansen2h 38m 19s158
1977Christa Vahlensieck2h 34m 47s155
1978Grete Waitz2h 32m 30s152
1980Grete Waitz2h 25m 42s145
1983Joan Benoit2h 22m 43s143
1985Ingrid Kristiansen2h 21m 6s141
1998Tegla Loroupe2h 20m 47s140
1999Tegla Loroupe2h 20m 43s140
Click To Show Applet Window


Use the graph you made in the applet to answer the following questions:
  1. Based on the graph, what do you think the women's winning time should have been this year at the Sidney 2000 Olympic Games?

  2. Predict when women will run the marathon as fast as men.

  3. What do you think the women's world record marathon time was in 1926? Use this Web link from the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching (CIMT) to look up times from 1926 to see how well they fit your prediction.

  4. Using lines to model data can be a powerful tool, but we have to be careful to be aware of their limitations. What real-world limitations do you think a line has in modeling the data?

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