Why Do Marathon Runners Run So Close Together

As a passionate marathon runner, I have often wondered why runners in a marathon tend to run so close together. It is a fascinating phenomenon to observe during these long-distance races. At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive to run in such close proximity to other runners. However, there are several reasons why marathon runners prefer to stick together throughout the race.

The Psychological Aspect

One of the main reasons why marathon runners tend to run so close together is the psychological effect it has on each individual. Running a marathon is not just a physical challenge; it is a mental battle as well. Seeing other runners around you, especially those who are maintaining a similar pace, can provide a tremendous boost of motivation and encouragement. It creates a sense of camaraderie and support, which can help runners stay focused and combat feelings of fatigue or doubt.

Additionally, running in a pack can help alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that comes with participating in a marathon. When surrounded by fellow runners, it provides a sense of security and reassurance, knowing that you are not alone in the daunting task ahead.

Drafting and Energy Conservation

An important aspect of running in close proximity to other runners is the concept of drafting. Drafting refers to the technique of positioning oneself closely behind another runner in order to take advantage of the reduced wind resistance. By following closely behind another runner, you can save a significant amount of energy, especially when running against a headwind. This energy conservation can make a noticeable difference, particularly in the latter stages of a marathon when fatigue sets in.

Furthermore, running in a tight pack can also help break through mental barriers. When you find yourself struggling, it is common to latch onto a group of runners who are maintaining a consistent pace. The collective energy and determination within the group create a positive atmosphere that can push you to keep going, even when your body wants to quit.

The Competitive Instinct

Marathon runners are inherently competitive individuals. The desire to compete and perform at their best drives them to seek out other runners to challenge themselves against. Running side by side with someone who is matching your pace or slightly ahead can push you to dig deeper and discover new levels of strength and endurance. The presence of other runners acts as a constant reminder to push beyond your comfort zone and strive for excellence.

Furthermore, running in close proximity to others can provide valuable opportunities for strategic decision-making. Observing the pace and technique of the runners around you can help you gauge your own performance and make necessary adjustments. It creates a dynamic and ever-changing race environment where runners can adapt and respond to the actions of their competitors.


While the sight of marathon runners running so closely together might initially seem perplexing, there are logical reasons behind this behavior. The psychological support, drafting benefits, and competitive instincts all contribute to the phenomenon of marathon runners sticking together throughout the race. So, the next time you witness a marathon, remember that there is more to it than just a group of runners – it is a collective journey towards personal victory.