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Are Women Better at Endurance Sports?

Are women better at endurance sports?

It’s possible. But the latest research suggests the fastest ultra-marathon runners will be male for the foreseeable future.

Since at least the 1970’s, I can remember hearing that women’s bodies are more adapted to endurance. The theory was that women evolved to endure the demands of bearing children for nine months, while men evolved for bursts of strength and speed required for hunting for a few hours. Or something like that.

Are Women Better at Endurance Sports?

As more women have gotten involved in sports, they have racked up faster and faster speeds in ultra-marathon events. Men are improving, too, and have always set the fastest records.

But at one point, women appeared to be improving faster. In 1992, researchers looked at the trend lines and projected that women would notch the best times in the marathon by 1998. That didn’t happen.

And in a study published this year in SpringerPlus, researchers compared the times of the fastest 10 men and 10 women who ever finished a 50-, 100-, 200- or 1,000-kilometer ultra-marathon held worldwide between 1969 and 2012.

During that period, the sex differences in running speeds decreased in 50- and 100-kilometer races, but not in 200- and 1,000-kilometer races. The sex differences did not seem to depend on the length of the race.

“These findings suggest that it is very unlikely that women will ever outrun men in ultra-marathons held from 50 km to 1,000 km,” the researchers conclude.

A separate study looked at marathons to see if the sex difference changed with the age of the competitors. It found that men recorded the fastest times starting at age 15. The difference in finishing times between sexes was about 20 minutes from age 20 to 50, but increased after that.

Not surprisingly men and women both got slower starting around age 35.

The featured photo on this page is by Stuart Grout. Some rights reserved.