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Springerplus. 2016 May 20;5(1):672. doi: 10.1186/s40064-016-2326-y. eCollection 2016.

Do women reduce the gap to men in ultra-marathon running?

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Gesundheitszentrum St. Gallen, Vadianstrasse 26, 9001 St. Gallen, Switzerland ; Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Primary Care, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Physical and Cultural Education, Hellenic Army Academy, Athens, Greece.


The aim of the present study was to examine sex differences across years in performance of runners in ultra-marathons lasting from 6 h to 10 days (i.e. 6, 12, 24, 48, 72, 144, and 240 h). Data of 32,187 finishers competing between 1975 and 2013 with 93,109 finishes were analysed using multiple linear regression analyses. With increasing age, the sex gap for all race durations increased. Across calendar years, the gap between women and men decreased in 6, 72, 144 and 240 h, but increased in 24 and 48 h. The men-to-women ratio differed among age groups, where a higher ratio was observed in the older age groups, and this relationship varied by distance. In all durations of ultra-marathon, the participation of women and men varied by age (p < 0.001), indicating a relatively low participation of women in the older age groups. In summary, between 1975 and 2013, women were able to reduce the gap to men for most of timed ultra-marathons and for those age groups where they had relatively high participation.


Athlete; Performance; Sex difference; Ultra-endurance

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