A blog by runners. For runners.

Study: women are better at pacing than men

women-are-better-at-pacing-than-menOn runs over 10 miles, my husband and I average around the same pace. In fact, our half marathon PRs are a mere 11 seconds apart. However, we rarely run together because we run so differently. I always aim to keep an even pace or run negative splits. But my husband? I (lovingly) call him the king of positive splitting.

Now there’s some science to back this up. One study says that women may be better at holding an even pace than men over long distances.

The study
Researchers from the University of Dayton set out to find which sex was better at holding a consistent pace: men or women. They also wanted to know whether that changed under hot vs. cold race day conditions.

The scientists looked at data from the 2007 and 2009 Chicago marathons – which totaled more than 33,000 runners. They chose these races in part because of their temperature discrepancy – in 2007, it was 78 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago but in 2009, it was only 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

They analyzed data from men and women, elite and non-elite, young and old, and fast and slow runners. Specifically, they looked at how the runners’ performance for the last 7 miles of the marathon compared to the first 18 miles of the race. Researchers found that:

  • On average, men slowed down more than women in the final miles of both marathons – leading researchers to conclude that women may be better at pacing than men.
  • Women fared better in the heat, and their pacing over men improved significantly from the cold to the hot race day conditions.
  • Runners with 3:40- 4:07 finishing times slowed down more in the final miles when compared to those with faster finishing times.
  • Age was not a factor. Younger and older runners did not have significantly different pacing abilities.

So, why is the fairer sex better at pacing? It may come down to physiology. Women burn through carbohydrates more slowly than men, which can help them delay or avoid hitting the wall all together, and yes, hold a better pace. Women also dissipate heat more efficiently than men, which can explain why the female runners in this study fared better in the heat.

The takeaway
Men, don’t fret. Note that this is just one study. When the researchers looked at elite runners, there was no significant difference between the sexes when it came to pacing. Not surprisingly, both men and women elites held consistent paces on race day, even in the heat. Meaning that proper training trumps between sex pacing differences.

Also, keep in mind that this study didn’t look at training, fueling, and other variables that greatly impact an individual’s race performance. More research needs to be done before anyone can say for sure if women are better pacers or not. And even if it turns out to be true, remember men, you’re faster than we are!

Written by Jen Matz.