Watching an old Olympic marathon and I'm wondering... How are the marathon athlete numbers decided?

In other disciplines, usually the favorite has 1, then the runner up 2, etc.

But in the Olympic marathon, numbers are in the thousands even if there are 100 runners, and they are not even sequential (there's #1395, then #2162, etc.)

So is there any logic in the marathon number attribution? Or is it just a random number picked between 1000 and 9999?

1 Answer 1


If I'm not mistaken, the athlete numbers are one large pool for all athletic events, including the track and field ones. Athletes are ordered, first by gender (women first, men last), then by country, then by last name. Numbering started at 300 (Kamia Yousufi, the only female athlete from Afghanistan); I'm not sure why that number was chosen.

You can even see some part of this schema in the very first frame of the video you linked to:

  • BRA 1226
  • KOR 2352
  • LIE 2423
  • MAR 2451
  • MAW 2480

enter image description here

I'm not aware of a full list of athletes with bib numbers, but our newly elected moderator Joe found a site with the results per event.

  • You can see this is partially true on this site; USA starts around bib 3040, and goes to nearly 3200, from what I can tell by a brief glance (it doesn't have a full single list, unfortunately, but you could easily read through several pages to see it's true).
    – Joe
    Jun 16, 2020 at 20:44
  • However, it looks like that's not entirely true; in particular, the Women seem to have a separate set than the Men. They don't overlap, though; it's "all women", then "all men"; and they do indeed go below 1000.
    – Joe
    Jun 16, 2020 at 20:46
  • 1
    Oh, such a division makes sense too. I'll have a closer look when I have time. BTW, congratulations!
    – Glorfindel
    Jun 16, 2020 at 20:59

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