An analysis of nearly 2m results from 131 marathons staged around the world found that women are better pacers than men when it comes to marathon running.


“Although men are faster marathon runners than women they are not the smartest,” concluded study author Jens Jakob Andersen of, who estimates that women are 18% better at maintaining a consistent and controlled pace during the first and final stretches of a marathon.

This new study corroborates previous research findings that men slow down more than women in marathons, although more investigation is needed to determine exactly why that is.

Andersen’s findings also match up with triathlon research. A 2009 study of 12 elite athletes (six males and six females) competing in an ITU World Cup event found that during the run, men had a significant decrease in speed throughout the course, while women only slowed down during uphills and downhills.

Pacing in swimming and cycling has not been as well-documented as running, but the tri-related literature generally suggests that of the three disciplines, the swim yields the smallest time differences between men and women.

The study of 12 pro triathletes revealed that in the bike leg, men’s speed and power output decreased after the first lap, while women spent more time above maximal aerobic power in the hills. More recent research contentiously concluded that females consistently start the cycling leg at faster speeds than males in sprint, Olympic, half-Ironman and Ironman distance triathlons. 

Age has yet to be explored scientifically as a factor of pacing in triathlons, although studies indicate that older runners tended to have a more even pace than younger runners during marathons. Andersen’s study found that the best pacers were from the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups, while the youngest (0-19) and oldest (+70) runners tended to “burn out dramatically”.