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