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Apple health study proves anybody can run a marathon — given enough time

You may never have seen it -- all Apple Watch exercise rings completed

For five years, Apple has been running a Heart and Movement Study using the Apple Watch, and its researchers have now examined the training and cardio exercises that marathon runners do.

The Apple Heart and Movement Study has been run in partnership with the American Heart Association and Brigham and Women's Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, since 2019. Ahead of Marathon Monday, April 15, 2024, and the Boston Marathon in particular, researchers have been examining health data of people who run and walk marathons.

Between its founding in November 2019 and January 1, 2024, the study's researchers say that there have been 201,471 participants. More than 1,500 ran an estimated 2,623 marathons in total, plus over 50% of participants had at least one single running workout of 5K or more.

For some 20% of participants, that longest single running workout was at least 10K. In the walking study, almost 54% of participants had a longest single workout of at least 5K — and nearly 14% did at least 10K in one go.

The researchers also tracked how participants prepared for a marathon. They say that the top 10% of participants with the fastest finishing time, ran roughly 16 miles more per week than the middle 10%, leading up to marathon day.

Most participants did not run or walk marathons, but the researchers have the data on how much they did run or walk. So they've extrapolated how long it would take most people to run or walk a marathon's 26.2 miles at their average exercising speed.

This time using specifically data from April 2023, they found that half of participants would run or walk 26.2 miles in 90 days or fewer.

The study notes that this may be an underestimate, though. Apple Watch can automatically detect a workout and begin timing it, but not all participants will have enabled that feature.