As reported in the Oct. 28 Wall Street Journal, a recent study concluded that men and women do seem to run the marathon differently: men tend to aim towards a predetermined time goal, while women simply try to run as fast as possible.  Also, women are more likely to achieve a negative split than men.  Why this seems to be the case, and what it means, is up for debate, and I’m sure this won’t be the final word on the subject.  Here’s the article:

Do marathoners run 26.2 miles as fast as possible?

Most finishers would probably say yes. But in a test of that hypothesis, business professors Patricia Dechow and Eric Allen examined about 300,000 Chicago Marathon performances from 2003 to 2011, and they conclude that the answer depends on gender: Sorry, guys.

In a field where everyone tried their hardest, finish times would be spread out evenly, say Dechow and Allen, respectively of the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Southern California. And that was the case with the female marathoners they studied. Male finishers, however, tended to bunch around whole-number times such as four hours. This suggests that their primary focus is finishing under a particular time, rather than running their all-out best.

Women also were likelier than men to achieve negative splits, wherein the second half of the race is run faster than the first, the authors found. By running the first half conservatively, a marathoner can avoid “bonking” or hitting a pace-slowing wall in the second half. In the last 2.19 kilometers of the race, women were significantly likelier to speed up and finish strong.

Of course, the authors noted, their strong finishes may indicate that women ran too conservatively, for fear of failing to finish.

—Kevin Helliker


About horowitzrun

Jeff is a certified running, cycling, and triathlon coach, and is the author of "My First 100 Marathons" (Skyhorse Press 2008) and "Smart Marathon Training" (Velo Press 2011). An obviously addicted runner, Jeff has run at least one marathon in every state and on 6 continents, including marathons in South Africa, China, Bangkok, and Antarctica. Jeff is available for group, one-on-one, and virtual coaching. Options include: 1. Basic Training Plan. This includes a customized training schedule geared towards a goal race, with a detailed running schedule that would include all distances and target times for each workout, including speedwork, tempo, and endurance sessions. 2. Complete Fitness and Race Plan. This includes the plan listed above, plus the non-running workouts and drills that runners need for better overall fitness and performance. You would get strength & core workouts, as well as run-specific training drills and stretches. 3. Virtual Coaching. This includes all of the above, implemented on a week-by-week basis. We review each week's progress at week's end so that adjustments can be made. The program is tailored to suit you right up to race day. It involves more contact, on a weekly or even daily basis. 4. Full Coaching for athletes in the Washington DC area. All of the above, plus a weekly workout together including speedwork, drills, and strength training. 5. Individual track sessions. One-on-one track-based workouts. Contact Jeff for pricing.
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