A new study from RunRepeat finds that women are better than men when it comes to pacing the marathon. Researchers looked at more than two million marathon results from 2009 to 2019 that showed that women are, on average, 18.33 per cent better at running an even pace than men. Men ran quicker average finishing times than women, but when the full races were broken down and compared split by split, there was no denying that women ran better races and saw fewer mid-race blowups than male runners.
The average pace run by men saw an increase of 14.07 per cent from the first half to the second half of the marathon, starting with 5:43 per-kilometre pace in the opening 21.1K and slowing to 6:40 pace from halfway until the finish line. Conversely, women’s paces only increased by 11.49 per cent in the second half of the race, with the average woman starting the run at 6:26 pace and closing out the final 21K at 7:16 pace. Regardless of gender, positive-splitting was common among the vast majority of the studied results, with 92 per cent of participants running the first half of the race faster than the second.
RunRepeat‘s study included results from more than 38,000 Canadians, and while we tend to do a better job pacing compared to the global average for both genders, women are still much better than men over a full 42.2K run. On average, Canadian men open with 5:10 pace through the first half of the marathon, and Canadian women run 5:46 pace. Both are respectable splits, and much quicker than the average of the total 2.3 million race results that were studied. Unfortunately, we’re still susceptible to positive splits, and Canadian men finished their marathons with an average pace of 5:50 per kilometre, while Canadian women 6:23 pace for the second half of the race. These are burnout rates of 12.98 per cent for men and 10.77 per cent for women.
The ultra gap
RunRepeat referenced findings from another study, this one on ultrarunning, that found that the longer the race, the smaller the pace gap between men and women. This study showed that, on average, female ultrarunners are faster than male ultrarunners after 195 miles (313K). This is of course way farther than a marathon, but the pacing strategies of women in marathons can help explain why female athletes fare better than men the longer they run. If women continue to pace better than men beyond 42K, then it only makes sense that they will draw closer and closer to the men with every passing kilometre.
To read the full study, head to the RunRepeat website.