GIRL POWER: Women Take Over the Marathon
By CEO Robert Forster, PT
Four thousand years ago the marathon distance run was christened when Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon.
Forty years ago the first-ever marathon for women-only, was run in St Paul MN. Now women are taking over the men’s races too. For the first time, more women completed the Boston Marathon, than men. Worldwide, the majority of all marathon finishers in 2016 were women, holding steady at 60 percent—the same percentage as 2015.
Why the surge in women taking on the mythical 26.2 mile race?
Certainly, female participation in sports has grown steadily since Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law by the president in 1972; however, there are few mainstream sports where female participation outpaces men. In addition to the social empowerment of women that drive females to increase participation across all sports, the answer for this steady uptick in women taking on the marathon may be found in science.
The very reason the marathon has held its lure since that first victory dash in ancient Greece is because the average human can only store enough carbohydrate, the most common energy source used for exercise, to cover about 18 miles, after which the exercise fuel tank is depleted. Indeed, that’s why so many marathoners slow their pace to a crawl right about that mark in the race, or worse, drop out.
As an alternative, the basis of all science based marathon training is to teach the body to burn more fat during exercises, and use less carbohydrate to be sure the carb tank doesn’t run empty before the end of the race. Science has shown that women have more body fat then men, and they can tap into this source for energy more efficiently too. This exercise science is so powerful for endurance related sports that many scientists now believe as ultra-distance races become longer; women may truly outpace men for the over-all win.
UPDATE! WOMAN are better at pacing during marathons than men
Strava has been looking at data from 10,706 runners who completed last year’s London Marathon (25% of those who took part), and the company found that women are ‘significantly better’ at pacing, with the best pacers in the event being women aged over 60.
Comparing the pace at which runners completed the first half of the marathon to their pace in the second half, it was discovered that, on average, women only slowed down by 11%, while men dropped off by 17%. That suggests that men set off too fast, and have to make up for that energy spent later on, while women run smarter.
Strava data also revealed that it’s women over 60 who are most consistent at pacing, with only a 9% variance in pace. Gareth Mills, UK Country Manager at Strava, says: ‘Women are simply smarter pacers and more astute marathoners than men. The data we have from 25% of last year’s marathon finishers proves it.
The 2018 Boston Marathon, with its horizontal rain and freezing temperatures, wasn’t just an ordeal unfolding amid some of the worst weather in decades, it was also an example of women’s ability to persevere in exceptionally miserable circumstances. In good weather, men typically drop out of this race at lower rates than women do, but in 2018, women fared better. Finishing rates varied significantly by gender. For men, the dropout rate was up almost 80 percent from 2017; for women, it was up only about 12 percent. Overall, 5 percent of men dropped out, versus just 3.8 percent of women. The trend was true at the elite level, too.
The 2019 Skecher’s Performance Los Angeles Marathon is 8 weeks away. The popular race course, called The Stadium to the Sea, takes runners through all the iconic Los Angeles neighborhoods from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica; and is one of the country’s largest marathons with over 25,000 participants.
If you are interested in throwing your hat into the ring for this fabled race distance, please call for a free Performance Consultation with the PHASE IV Science Team. 310-582-8212