Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are Female Runners Less Competitive Than Male?

Are you a female runner? Do you agree with the above? That female runners are on average, less competitive than their male counterparts. Is it easier to win a prize in running races in the female category compared to the male category? Please read on to find out.

Researchers studied data from the New York City marathon over a period of 31 years seem to think so. The timings of the first 10 positions of both male and female runners between 20 and 79 years (in 5 year age brackets) were analysed between 1980-2010.

The authors were not saying the female runners were not fast, rather the women who finished in say 7th, 8th, 20th etc behind the female race winner were often farther back compared to the 7th, 8th and 20th place male finisher. In short, the 10th place female may be 15 percent behind the female winner as compared to 10 percent for the 10th placed male runner compared the male winner.

The researchers found that a big reason could be due to lower participation rates of women. In the older age groups, there were a lot more male racers compared to females. When more women participate, it gets harder to place and the top 10 women get more competitive.

It is also interesting to note that exercise physiologists agree that physiological attributes like VO2 max, lactate threshold and running threshold do not play a part..

A psychologist, Robert O Deaner (who runs marathons) has published many articles on why female runners are less competitive than male. He suggests that male runners are more motivated than female runners to chalk up high training volumes and intensive training for elite performances.

His views probably won't win him any popularity votes I guess. You can access some of his papers here.

So, what about you? Why do you think on average female runners are less competitive than males? Is it really easier to win a prize in the local female category as compared to the male category?  Let's hear your views.

Hunter SK and Stevens AA (2013). Sex Difference in Marathon running with Advanced Age: Physiology or Participation? Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jan 45(1) : 148-156.

* Picture by richseow in

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