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Alexa is a keen runner who loves to run long on the trails. She’s also a Running Coach at On the Run Health and Fitness and has a passion for helping people to fall in love with running and making improvements to what they can achieve. Alexa is writing a series of blogs for SportsCover Direct to give expert tips on training for runners. To read more find Alexa at http://alexaruns.blogspot.co.uk/ and on twitter @abitlikealexa.
When I race I try to focus on process goals (time improvement, technique focus, negative split etc) but in the back of my mind is a general rule of thumb to try to come in the top half of the female finishers. Yes, I aim to be an average women, or better 🙂
What I’ve noticed is that how far up the female field I finish and how easy this goal is to hit very much depends on the distance involved. For example last year I came in the top 22% of women in a road 10k, top 10% of women in a road half marathon. But in an off road marathon and ultra I came almost exactly half way down the female field.
Now part of this is my varying ability at different distances on different terrains, but it got me thinking and I took a look at average and fastest finishing for one of the weekends in an off road racing series I’ve tried a few times; the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series. This event has a number of stages over the winter, each stage has a 10k, half marathon, full marathon and ultra option. The Sussex CTS is one of the “less strenuous” of the series of races, but there are still some interesting themes so I’ve run a few numbers on the average finish times and fastest finish times for men and women across the different distances.
Average finishing times comparing between men and women;
10k – 20% difference
Half – 24% difference
Marathon – 3% difference (women faster than men in this case)
Ultra – 1.25% difference
This interests me as the difference between men and women’s average finishing time decreases quite substantially as the distance increases.
Fastest finishing times comparing between men and women;
10k – 10% difference
Half – 12% difference
Marathon – 25% difference
Ultra – 45% difference
In contrast to the average times, this shows that the fastest finishing time difference between men and women increases dramatically as the distance of the race increases. The longer distances have quite a difference considering the difference in world record for the marathon in % terms for example…
Average vs fastest finishing time comparison for women;
10k – 33%
Half – 30%
Marathon – 11%
Ultra – 4%
This is eye opening as the different between the women fastest and average finishing time for women decreases as the distance increases.
Average vs fastest finishing time comparison for men;
10k – 24%
Half – 25%
Marathon – 33%
Ultra – 33%
For men the opposite happens and the difference between average and fastest times increases as the distance increases and is higher overall that the different between the two figures for women.
So what does all this show us?
Average female finishing time compared with men reducing as the distance increases hints to me that women could be self selecting, and are less likely to go for a longer race distance unless they feel more confident about their ability. Men may be more likely to give it a go, when less confident about their ability at the longer distances.
The opposite differences between fastest times between men and women could be the same effect, in that the faster women move down a distance and therefore look like their performances over shorter distances are better?
This is demonstrated again with the difference between female average and fastest times decreasing significantly as race distance increases. Quite the opposite occurs for men, and overall the average difference across all distances is higher for men than women; again evidence of self selecting?
I should also say that the percentage of female finishers decreases as the race distances increase. At ultra distance there are far fewer women than men in the race, but those women that do run are better runners in terms of their performance. Women at the longer distances who are not as fast are less likely to register or turn up to the race, I suspect, whilst men will give it a go regardless!