A new study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, looked at finishers from 14 marathons, including the Chicago and Disney races. Of the 91,929 participants whose times were studied, 42 percent were women. Researchers looked at each person's time at the midpoint of the race and at the end. Basically, if a runner was able to keep the same pace for the second half of the marathon then it can be deduced that his/her pace remained relatively even.
The researchers found that women do a better job of setting pace than men, who tend to start out too fast. While slow even-paced and steady might not necessarily win the race, you're also way less likely to decrease speed. Seems like a pretty good strategy to us, especially for all you newbie marathoners!
Further, men showed a significant decrease in pace than women. Scientists considered a slower second half as being at least 30 percent slower than the pace in the first part of the race. According to the data, 14 percent of men paced in this category compared to 5 percent of women.
And this isn't a trend only seen in new marathoners. Men, experienced or not, still ran more slowly than women during the second-half of the race.
According to Sandra Hunter, a professor of exercise science at Marquette University and senior author of the study, women tend to burn more fat, whereas men burn more carbohydrates for fuel. As a result, "men typically run out of fuel and bonk or hit the wall earlier than women do," says Dr. Hunter.
Men also lean towards the strategy of starting off fast and hoping to hold the pace, she shares. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it's obviously not an ideal situation if you overestimate how much gas you've got in your engines.
On the other hand, an even pace might not be the best plan if you run slower than you are capable, says Dr. Hunter.
Seems like the ideal strategy might be to figure out your pacing during your marathon training and then stick with that come race day. How do you keep pace during a run?
Sign up for your next race next race.