Women vs. Men in the marathon  //  Introducing an upcoming 4-part series

07 Oct 2007 Posted by

Last weekend, Haile Gebrselassie knocked 29 seconds off the four-year old marathon world record with a time of 2:04:26. As tends to happen after these performances, everyone began questioning what the limits to human performance might be? Is it possible to break 2-hours? Geb himself spoke of his own feeling that he would run 2:03 at Berlin someday. Depending on what he meant by 2:03 (that is, 2:03:59 or 2:03:00), I’m sceptical of that ambition, since it requires some extra-ordinary performances to knock 86 seconds off a time that is becoming more and more difficult to crack. We wrote about this possibility in a post a few days ago.

But another way to approach this “limits of performance” issue is to consider whether women might ever outperform men? Last week saw a debate around the men’s world record – well, when Paula Radcliffe ran 2:15:25 in London in 2003, the discussion was deafening. Suddenly, everyone was convinced that the marathon was the event where women would one day catch up to, and then pass, men.

So with that question in mind, and stimulated by a question from one our readers, Jamie, we will run a series of posts looking at men vs. women in running. We’ll look at this issue in four parts:

  1. Women in running – a historical overview and the evolution of the marathon world record
  2. Performance differences between men and women in all running events, and a physiological discussion of why this difference exists
  3. Will women ever outperform men? And more interestingly, does it already happen!?
  4. Finally, we look at a scientific paper published earlier this year examining American women in the marathon

This series will begin on Tuesday next week, so join us then, as we delve into this often controversial but interesting discussion!

Until then, the Chicago Marathon and race analysis takes preference!


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