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Will women outrun men in ultra-marathon road races from 50 km to 1,000 km?

Abstract : It has been assumed that women would be able to outrun men in ultra-marathon running. The present study investigated the sex differences in running speed in ultra-marathons held worldwide from 50 km to 1,000 km. Changes in running speeds and the sex differences in running speeds in the annual fastest finishers in 50 km, 100 km, 200 km and 1,000 km events held worldwide from 1969-2012 were analysed using linear, non-linear and multi-level regression analyses. For the annual fastest and the annual ten fastest finishers, running speeds increased non-linearly in 50 km and 100 km, but not in 200 km and 1,000 km where running speeds remained unchanged for the annual fastest. The sex differences decreased non-linearly in 50 km and 100 km, but not in 200 and 1,000 km where the sex difference remained unchanged for the annual fastest. For the fastest women and men ever, the sex difference in running speed was lowest in 100 km (5.0%) and highest in 50 km (15.4%). For the ten fastest women and men ever, the sex difference was lowest in 100 km (10.0 ± 3.0%) and highest in 200 km (27.3 ± 5.7%). For both the fastest (r2 = 0.003, p = 0.82) and the ten fastest finishers ever (r2 = 0.34, p = 0.41) in 50 km, 100 km, 200 km and 1,000 km, we found no correlation between sex difference in performance and running speed. To summarize, the sex differences in running speeds decreased non-linearly in 50 km and 100 km but remained unchanged in 200 km and 1,000 km, and the sex differences in running speeds showed no change with increasing length of the race distance. These findings suggest that it is very unlikely that women will ever outrun men in ultra-marathons held from 50 km to 100 km.
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Matthias Zingg, Klaus Karner-Rezek, Thomas Rosemann, Beat Knechtle, Romuald Lepers, et al.. Will women outrun men in ultra-marathon road races from 50 km to 1,000 km?. SpringerPlus, SpringerOpen, 2014, 3 (1), pp.97. ⟨inserm-00954670⟩

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