At what race distance could the women’s world record be faster than the men’s?

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Women and men were created differently. Men hold faster world records than women for every running distance (as tracked by wikipedia).

I wondered, as the distance gets longer, does the margin decline between men and women?

Methodology: I looked at world records from wikipedia to find the difference between men and women at different distances. I used a logarithmic chart below, which is a little more intuitive given the exponentially increasing distance. Note the regression will not look like a straight line due to the logarithmic horizontal axis (linear scale chart is included at the end of the post).

Men vs women world records by race distance 2

Findings:

  • From the 100 meter dash to a marathon, men appear to progressively get faster than women. This is not what I was expecting. I thought men would be much faster than women at shorter distances due to sheer muscle mass, but as the length got longer, women would be closer.
  • This didn’t start to occur until after the marathon. For the double marathon (second dot from the right), men are only 10% faster. And for the 100K Ultramarathon, women are much more competitive, coming in within 5% of the men’s time.

At what distance could a women’s world record be faster than the men’s?

Methodology: I used the linear regression equation in the chart above to extrapolate what would happen at longer distances. The model was a pretty good fit, having an R-squared of 0.67.

Findings: Women could beat the men’s world record @ 200k. The model suggests the tipping point is 199k. Anything above that, and women should be on an equal playing field.

A 200k is about 124 miles, which, if running 7 minute miles, would be 14 hours of continuous running. I couldn’t find an example of a continuous 200k race on the Internet, but who knows, it could exist. If there is one, I wouldn’t be surprised if a women took home top prize.

Men vs women world records by race distance - linear scale

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