Are Women Better Marathoners Than Men?

An article in Nature magazine in the mid 1980s argued that women would eventually run faster marathons than men. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald.

An article in Nature magazine in the mid 1980s argued that women would eventually run faster marathons than men. Photo: Sydney Morning Herald.

Some scientists don’t think so.

Over 25 years ago, an article appeared in the publication Nature, that raised a lot of eyebrows. Its premise was that women would eventually catch up and surpass their male counterparts in longer-distance races like the marathon.

The researchers who contributed to the article calculated that women’s marathon times would equal men’s by the end of the 20th Century.

This didn’t happen.

The women’s world record  in the marathon, 2:15:25, is held by Paula Radcliffe, while the men’s record is held by Haile Gebrselassie (2:03:59).

Men were running Radcliffe’s time in 1958.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the article’s mistake was that it assumed women’s marathon times would continue to drop when in fact they have plateaued.

Associate professor in exercise and sports science at the University of Sydney, Martin Thompson, says it all comes down to the “size of the engine”. He notes that men have a greater aerobic capacity than women because they have a higher haemoglobin content in their blood. Haemoglobin is the protein that transports oxygen around the body.

But it’s not all bad news for women.

For More: The Sydney Morning Herald

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