Running Like a Girl

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

It’s no secret that men run faster than women, but these two tables from Paediatric Exercise Science and Medicine demonstrate just how much faster young men are than young women:

Percentile Ranks for 50-m Sprint for Boys

Percentile Ranks for 50-m Sprint for Girls

In a 50-meter sprint, the average time for an 18-year-old guy is 7.3 seconds (±0.5 s), while the average time for an 18-year-old girl is 9.1 seconds (±0.7 s).

One girl in ten can run 50 meters in 8.2 seconds, which is fast enough to put a guy below the 5th percentile.

One girl in a hundred can run 50 meters in 7.6 seconds, which is fast enough to put a boy in the 25th percentile.

So, the number of girls who can run as fast as the average guy is roughly zero.

It didn’t realize it was that extreme.


  1. Ben says:

    More, please!

    Is it because of fast/slow fiber blend? Is is pure muscle mass? Is it neuromuscular (recruitment)? How does it change over age? How does it respond to training?

    Interesting thing: they’re quite similar through pre-teens. Once puberty hits, however, that’s when they start to really diverge. Females don’t improve much; males do.

  2. Jehu says:

    Yes, that’s, what, more than three sigmas of difference? Authorial affirmative action for women is seriously off the charts, moreso than the ever-present black scientist in such works. At least in those cases the author is only BSing reality by a sigma or two. The “warrior woman” trope takes BSing to Herculean heights.

  3. Isegoria says:

    Girls enter their adolescent growth spurt roughly two years before boys, who continue to grow at a slow and steady rate until their even bigger growth spurt. Not only do the boys grow taller than the girls, but they grow much more muscular, while the girls put on fat, and the boys’ shoulders widen, while the girls’ hips widen.

    The increased testosterone responsible for this also makes the boys respond more to training. They grow more muscle, faster, in response to stress, so they can train more, and they benefit more from training. This is why athletes take synthetic male hormones, or anabolic-androgenic steroids. There’s some evidence that steroids also improve recruitment, but the main benefit comes from increased protein synthesis, or tissue-building — hence the anabolic name.

  4. Isegoria says:

    The problem comes not from having a competent warrior woman but from having her go toe-to-toe with a competent warrior man twice her size. You can overcome significant size and strength differences with extreme differences in skill, tactics, weaponry, etc., but you are overcoming a (literally) massive advantage.

  5. Buckethead says:

    Out of curiosity, I looked up the high school 100 m record for my home state of Ohio. Brandon Saine of Dayton ran a 10.38 in 2006.

    The current women’s world record holder, Florence Griffith-Joyner, ran a 10.49 in 1988*.

    So, from a random state in the US, a high school runner easily beats the best woman sprinter ever. Even the division III record holder beats (10.54) every single sprint except for Flo-Jo’s single record-setting run.

    *wiki: Florence Griffith-Joyner’s World Record has been the subject of a controversy due to strong suspicion of a defective anemometer measuring a tailwind lower than actually present; since 1997 the International Athletics Annual of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians has listed this performance as “probably strongly wind assisted, but recognized as a world record”.[17] Her 10.61 the following day and 10.62 at the 1988 Olympics would still make her the world record holder.

  6. Jehu says:


    It’s interesting that the three-sigma difference holds at the absolute top end also — if we assume that your high school’s record is around the four-sigma or so level and that the Olympic world record pushes the 7th sigma.

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