Running Performance Differences between Men and Women
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More than a decade ago it was reported in the journal Natures that the slope of improvement in the men’s and women’s running records, extrapolated from mean running velocity plotted against historical time, would eventually result in a performance intersection of the sexes across a variety of running distances. The first of these intersections was to occur for 42 000m before the 21st century. Most of the error in this prediction is probably explained by the linear mathematical treatment and extrapolation of limited performance data, since including world record-setting running performances for women before and after 1985 results in a non-linear data fit. The reality of early, disproportionate improvements in women’s running that gave the appearance of an impending convergence with men is best explained by an historical social sports bias. Women’s times have now reached a plateau similar to that observed for men at comparative performance milestones in the marathon. Sex differences at distances from 100 to 10 000m show similar trends. The remaining sex gaps in performance appear biological in origin. Success in distance running and sprinting is determined largely by aerobic capacity and muscular strength, respectively. Because men possess a larger aerobic capacity and greater muscular strength, the gap in running performances between men and women is unlikely to narrow naturally.
KeywordsSport Participation Lactate Threshold Aerobic Power International Olympic Committee Stride Frequency
The authors wish to thank Bryant Stamford, PhD, University of Louisville, Lynn Panton, PhD, Florida State University, and Krista Austin, PhD, Florida State University, for reading and remarking on this manuscript. The views, opinions and/or findings contained in this report are those of the authors and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, or decision, unless so designated by other official documentation. Approved for public release; distribution unlimited.
No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.
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