Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Monday, June 06, 2005

Female ultramarathon runners

This is one of those articles, like the annual spring time one about allergy sufferers, that doesn't tell us anything new.

Pam Reed is a very good ultrarunner, as was Ann Trason (and she may be again if she can get healthy), but that isn't news. The article describes the usual vague speculation about whether women have more endurance than men, but doesn't even bother to tell us what that means:
Researchers have cited several possible explanations for why some women fare better than men in long-distance events. Women have more fat to burn, allowing them to conserve carbohydrates. They may also process heat more effectively. Also, studies have shown that women may cope with pain better than men
It also fails to give any data whatsoever, that women fare better in ultramarathons than men do, or that such events are increasingly popular with women.

I'm always happy to see ultras get main-stream media attention that doesn't portray them as some sort of death-defying, incredible extreme event undertaken only by societal outcasts or cult members, but this doesn't add much.

BTW, I think one reason women may fair better at ultra distances is that they are better at pacing early. Too much testosterone can lead to too fast an early pace which can kill you in an ultra.


At 3:07 PM, Anonymous ollie said...

You mean that the "fairer" sex may well "fare" better? ;-)

Note that at a recent 100K (in Wisconsin), the top two spots went to women. Also, Sandra Brown (54, F) often wins open 100 mile walks.

But, as far as I know, the open records are held by males.

I am wondering if this is one of those cases where the distribution curves for performances at ultras differ between men and women (in terms of standard deviation; possibly in terms of shape as well).

This might make a nice senior project for one of our math majors.

At 1:14 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Interesting. I know that women are better long-distance swimmers than men (the theory is extra body fat gives them more buoyancy).

As for running, it's still a mystery. I'm not sure pacing is a serious problem for an experienced runner...

At 10:05 AM, Blogger jon said...

Looking at asthma exercise info online today while my son coughs I came across this post. Does anyone know a good asthma exercise site to help?



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