If you compare the performance of male and female athletes, there are clear differences in favor of men in many sports. Until you start looking at very far distances.
If you compare the performance of male and female athletes, there are clear differences in favor of men in many sports. The best-performing men run faster, jump higher and throw farther than the best-performing women. Until you start looking at very long distances. If it’s a long run (say more than 6 hours) — or swimming, for example — the difference in finish time is only about 4 percent. At longer distances, such as swimming the 45.8-kilometre Manhattan Island Marathon, women perform better on average.
Since these types of events aren’t held often and the number of entries is limited, it’s hard to know exactly why. But there are reasonable theories. For example, an average woman will have a larger type of muscle that is less strong but lasts longer. Women will also be better able to turn fat into energy, will more easily maintain a single pace (instead of wanting to go too fast) and will be more tolerant of pain and fatigue. And women will be better at enjoying the experience without thinking too anxiously about the outcome.
Whether you want long distance races is another matter. In China, 21 ultra-marathon runners died this year when the weather suddenly changed, and people could no longer see the road and became hypothermic. In this case, the better organization of the event probably made a big difference, but it remains a risky sport.
Thanks to: BBC Science Focus.