Nevill, A. M., & Whyte, G. (2006). Will women ever run (or walk) faster than men in long-distance endurance events? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 2745.

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These authors have reported that linear models were inappropriate when predicting men’s middle- and long-distance (800 m, 1500 m, mile, 5000 m, 10000 m and marathon) and women’s middle-distance (800 m and 1,500 m) world records. A more biologically sound, flattened “S-shaped” logistic curve provided a better fit to the data. Men and women’s long-distance running and walking world-record speeds recorded during the past century were modeled using the flattened S-shaped logistic curve.

The logistic curves produced significantly better fits to the world records than linear models. The models identified a slow rise in world-record speeds during the early years of the century, followed by a period of “acceleration” in the mid-century (possibly due to the professionalization of sport and advances in technology and science), and a subsequent peak in world-record performances towards the end of the century. The predicted peak (asymptotic) world-record times (min:sec) were (men vs. women); 5,000m (12:12 vs. 14:30), 10,000m (26:11 vs. 29:28), marathon (123:38 vs. 138:35), 20,000m walk (71:22 vs. 81:00).

Implication. Many of the established men and women’s long distance endurance running and walking world records are nearing their limits and, consequently, women’s long distance world records are unlikely to ever reach those achieved by men.

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