Study: Women Are Better at Marathon Pacing Than Men

On average, men slow down almost 19 percent more than women in the second half of races.

On average, men slow down almost 19 percent more than women in the second half of races.

As difficult as it may be, even pacing is considered an ideal strategy for running a marathon. And a recent study of more than 1.8 million marathon results came to an interesting conclusion—women pace themselves in a marathon significantly better than men.

The results were compiled by statistician (and former competitive runner) Jens Jakob Anderson of, with support from Polish statistician Wojciech Fedyszyn. They looked at results from 131 marathons around the world between 2008 and 2014, according to The Guardian. That came out to about 1.8 million results—974,599 from men and 448,561 from women (another 400,000 results did not reveal gender). They then looked at the first and second halves of the race and examined the “slow-down” rates of all the runners.

While both men and women slow down over the second half of a marathon, men slow down a lot more—around 18.6 percent more than women. The study also concluded that the youngest and oldest age groups (0-19 and 70-plus) burn out significantly more than other age groups, while the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups tend to pace themselves the best.

Determining why women are better at pacing than men is unknown, though this study will lead to speculation about whether men overestimate their capabilities, whether women underestimate theirs comparatively, or whether something physical accounts for the difference, such as the onset (or the impact) of the “wall” on men vs. women.

Anderson and Fedyszyn found some other interesting tidbits from the data they collected:

— Men finished in an average time of 4:21:36 while women finished in an average time of 4:41:27.

— For men, the fastest age is 38 years old. For women, it’s 24.

— The growth of marathon finishers has been 54 percent higher among women than men during the time frame of the study (2008-2014).

— The first 5K of a marathon is, on average, completed at a slower pace than the second 5K of the race (which is likely caused by early race traffic that runners are all too familiar with).