Gender differences in marathon running
When it comes to athletics men are stereotyped to be stronger, faster, and more competitive. A new study proves while this may be the case is some instances, when it comes to running marathons women are playing it safe and getting results.
Robert Deaner, associate professor of psychology at Grand Valley State, lead the study based on 14 marathons that happened in the U.S. in 2011, it included nearly 92,000 performances. The results showing an average of men running the second half of the marathon 15.6 percent slower than the first half, whereas women slowed by an average of 11.7 percent.
The researchers hypothesized that marathon pacing might reflect decision making, and previous studies have shown that men commonly make riskier decisions in many other circumstances.
“Sports scientists have long been interested in pacing, but they have focused on elite athletes and haven’t considered the role of decision making,” Deaner said in a news release. “We reasoned that decision making could be important for recreational runners.
Some have little knowledge about the demands of the marathon or their own capabilities, so it can be very easy to begin the early miles with an aggressive, unsustainable pace. We anticipated that men would be more likely to do this and, consequently, they’d be more likely to crash in the second half of the race.”
Researchers believe physiological factors may also contribute to the decrease of pace in men compared to women. Another scholar on this study Sandra Hunter says, “Women typically use more fat and less carbohydrate during endurance exercise. This should make them less likely to ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’ because they are less likely to have their muscles depleted of glycogen.”
Another variable researchers took into account was racing experience. They looked at whether the amount of knowledge and preparation participants had and if it could influence their pacing during the race. The researchers acquired information on more than 2,900 of the runners by looking them up on the athlinks website, which totals performances from many races.
The results showed that more years of racing experience were associated with more even pacing. However, this experience was similar for men and women, so this factor did not eliminate the gender differences in pacing during a marathon.
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