More women than men are taking part in running events across the world

Just under half the participants of the Great North Run were women (PA Images)
Just under half the participants of the Great North Run were women (PA Images)
12:25pm, Sat 14 Sep 2019
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New research shows that when it comes to running women are leading the way.                                 

At the Great North Run last weekend, almost 28,500 women ran the race which was just under half of the total participants, however according to this year's State of Running report 2018 was the first time in history there were more female than male runners in races across the world.

According to the State of Running report this year, 2018 was the first time in history there were more female runners than male in races across the world. 

So, what is behind this rise in female participation?

Number of women running increasing at a rapid rate

Though running events' participation has gone down 13% since 2016, the report by RunRepeat and the IAAF found more than a 50% rise in the last decade of women running in events.

This is compared to a worldwide growth for men of 46.91% over the same period. In seven countries, the proportion of female participants in races was above 30%. The USA leads the way, with 43% of participants being women.

Last year, there were more women participating in running events than men

It is not just the participation numbers increasing for women though, their performance is also seeing a rapid improvement.

When looking at average finishing times for marathons for both men and women, the improvement is clear. In 2006, the performance gap was 38% in favour of the men. Fast forward to now, the difference is just 12%, according to worldwide research by Let’s Do This.

Women’s stamina is under-rated

Men are often thought of as physically faster and stronger than women but the gap is not as drastic as it is made out to be.

Studies have been carried out over the past few years looking at the difference in stamina between men and women and the results do suggest women have an advantage.

Type I muscle fibres, known commonly as slow-twitch muscle fibers, are rich in blood-carrying myoglobin and, according to the American Council on Exercise, women have up to 35% more of these fibres than men.

This means more blood is delivered to the muscle and a higher proportion of fat allows them to process glucose more efficiently.

Marathon times are getting slower, but men slowing down faster

Despite the last decade producing a stream of outstanding endurance events, the overall performance aspect of running is declining.

In 1986, the average marathon finishing time was 3:52:35. Now, the time has increased to 4:32:49, which is a rise of 17%.

When breaking this down by gender, men are continuously slowing down and since 2001, the average finishing time for a marathon has risen by seven minutes.

On the contrary, women have seen a relatively small rise in the same period of four minutes, to an average of 5:00:18.

So while people are getting slower at running long distances, more and more women are continuing to improve and participate in endurance events.

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