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A woman who outruns men, 200 miles at a time (nytimes.com)
42 points by rusbus 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments





I saw her first at Joe Rogan's podcast[1]. Far beyond the athletic achievement, I was amazed by her humility, how modest was she was during the entire conversation!

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8DfjXnIk6c


I really found her modesty refreshing. If you’d like to hear more, she’s also on the Humans of Ultrarunning Poscast episode 1. One thing that stands out is her absence of formal structure and training plan. She just really enjoys running and does what her body is up for at any given day for in training. http://humansofultrarunning.com/episode-1-courtney-dauwalter...

Well, I don't know about that, on the Rogan podcast at one point she mentioned that one time she actually temporarily got blind of the exhaustion, but still kept running, so clearly her body was not up for it, but she was/is "crazy" enough not to stop.

I’m pretty sure that was during the actual 240 mile race. Not training.

Anybody also feel there is some sort of similarity between the way how she talks and Elon Mask?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycPr5-27vSI


FWIW, women beating men in ultra-marathon length events isn't a new thing. Pam Reed won the Badwater Ultramarathon[1] outright in 2002 and 2003.

More insights on this topic can be found here:

https://trailrunnermag.com/people/is-women-winning-ultras-ov...

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badwater_Ultramarathon


There was also that time a 61 year old farmer beat world class athletes in a 543 mile race: https://elitefeet.com/the-legend-of-cliff-young

Efficiency is the most important factor.


Of course the follow up to that story is that once those world class athletes saw and copied his strategy of keeping a slow pace and avoiding sleep they soundly beat him in every other race he entered.

Her Moab 240 pace wasn't actually that competitive, the exception is she didn't sleep.

It will be interesting to see what this does to the sport, if it ends up becoming as much about performing for days without sleep as being physically capable of running 200+ miles.


Isn't that the point? Endurance vs strength/speed. Endurance includes not needing to rest as much as the rest of the field.

I didn't say she cheated, it's well within the rules to skip sleeping.

It's just not something the competition has been doing, and I suspect it's largely out of self-preservation rather than a lack of ability. Sleep deprivation is not particularly good for the brain.

Now that Courtney has demonstrated this strategy, and how impossible it is for even the fastest of distance runners to beat it if they sleep, I expect ultramarathons to become a bunch of sleep-stumblers after the first day in the future.

Which makes it not really about distance running anymore. It's more like a run followed by a long tired hallucination-ridden hike.


Yeah that is the exact strategy employed by 61 year old Cliff Young linked above, slow pace and no sleep. The article notes that is the strategy everyone uses now in that race as well. Also he was not competitive the second year.

Maybe if make it a week long competition then sleeping well will be a good strategy?

The organizers could just require a minimum number of hours spent stationary if they're interested in preserving the running aspect of the race, and not alienating athletes who have no interest in subjecting themselves to extreme sleep deprivation.

It should probably be a separate class.


There are other races which are run X miles pr day for N days in a row and then add up the times for people who want more of a running focus. There are also variants where you have to keep a pace of at least X mph or get disqualified.

Personally I respect the 'purity' and simplicity of get from here to there on foot as fast as possible.


Interesting topic. Terrible reporting. Conclusion is contradicted by the data:

http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/Records/2017_20...


Yeah, it seems there is some relationship between hip width and running efficiency. (Wider hips create an angle between knee and hip, whereas narrower hips the leg extends basically straight down in front profile.) So if you're a woman with relatively narrow hips, great, you've got a chance of keeping up with the men over 100s of miles. But many women have wider hips than most men.

The numbers for 2017 Moab 240 don't seem reasonable to me: She ran the 238 miles in 58 hours. That's 4.1 mph. She beat the next competitor for 10 hours or 20 miles. Now let's focus on the competitor...

If 10 hours is 20 miles that's 2 mph for the last 10 miles. First, that's not running, that's not even walking. I walk about 3.5 mph. So either the competitor spent a couple hours in bed or it doesn't check out at all.

It'd also mean the competitor ran at 3.75 mph for the first 218 miles. Did they lose almost half the speed for the last 20 miles?


Listen to the Joe Rogan podcast with her, nobody can run non-stop for the full 240 miles. They sleep, rest even if for 10 - 20 minutes.

She was also resting, but on average she stopped fewer times than anybody else in the race.

Also, Moab is not like a marathon, it's rough terrain, so you can't possibly run with full force, like on a marathon flat surface.

Look at the terrain they're running on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YseTVpI4R5U


It's that she didn't* sleep (see comments below)

They probably sleep for some time at some point as well.

This is cool. I think it will be helpful to have more sports that don’t have gender or sex separated categories and finding activities where there aren’t biological advantages is important.

Why? Virtually all sports (including this one - see the comment from travisoneill1) have gender-related biological differences one way or the other. Why try to minimize this fact?

Let me clarify and expand. I don’t want to minimize existing sports. They are great and people love them dearly.

I think that new sports that don’t have biological biases based on sex or gender will be interesting mainly because the competitor base is doubled and the fan base is larger. So having more potential competitors should lead to better contests and having different events merged into a single means more viewers per events.

For example, esports not having gender categories is a positive. Or this type of endurance running is cool. Although I don’t expect there are too many viewers for a 67 hour event, having an event that allows people regardless of sex means more events possible.


One large argument is that there is larger biological differences than gender-related ones, and we usually do not split the player base based on the biggest biological differences. There is some small exception for sports which historically has a close connection to betting (horse racing and boxing), but then we have sports like baseball which is not separated based on height.

We could introduce a general rule where if a biological trait has above a statistical threshold of being beneficial, then the sport should split based on that trait. I would love see a statistician explore that and paint us a picture of how the most popular sports would look like.


It has nothing to do with minimizing anything. Sometimes it's just cool to see men and women compete at things they can be equals at, e.g. business, right? So, acknowledging that men and women have biological differences, I'd still like to see more things we can equally compete in, just for the entertainment/competitive spirit if nothing else.

EDIT: Although gp did say it would be "helpful." So, yeah, I don't know what they meant by that, but this is my take on it anyhow.


> cool to see men and women compete at things they can be equals at, e.g. business, right?

Funny that you are using the business example just assuming that they must be equal. There is no data that I know of to support this.


You can reason through it with existing evidence:

1. It can be reasonably agreed that (as of 2018) becoming a billionaire with a successful (profitable; influential) business empire is the peak of business success.

2. Women encounter more prejudice/sexism in business than men.

3. Becoming a self-made billionaire is more challenging as a female than a male.

4. There are both male and female self-made billionaires.

The conclusion is that women can be at least as competent as men in business.


Your conclusion sets a precise numerical (in)equality: Female competence >= Male competence. Your data is entirely non existent and/ or handwavy.

Let's assume that 1) is a good metric. Then 2) needs to be argued for and quantified. 3) follows from the (missing) quantification of 2, plus some other parameter for its impact. 4) Also needs to be numerically quantified: what's the ratio between male and female billionaires?

So we're back at square one: you believe your parameters to be whatever they need to be to make your conclusion true. That doesn't prove much, does it?


A problem with this is that 'equal' tends to equate to fields where measuring performance is not really possible in an objective fashion. E.g. - how would you measure business performance? Is Bill Gates a Bobby Fischer of business, or is he a smart guy who had a great run of right place/right time? In reality there's a good reason that most competitive fields are not equal by any means. In many fields there are even racial/ethnic divides where physiological differences tend to be much smaller than those between sexes. It's because while any world class competitor (in anything) might be many orders of magnitude more capable than a layperson, in general the differences between the individuals at the top is very small. Because of this even the slightest difference is something that can radically shift the balance.

As an example consider the LZR swimsuit [1] by Speedo. In the Beijing Olympics 23 of 25 world records broken were done by swimmers wearing an LZR suit. It had such a huge impact on swimming that the suit is now banned, along with possible derivatives of it. You might expect it's some amazing insta-swimmer, but it's just a regular swimsuit that's nicely engineered resulting in about a quarter less drag than their previous swimsuit. But these changes alone enabled swimmers to shave an average of about 2% off their lap times, which was way more than enough to just destroy just about all previous records.

The ratios of your hips, legs, weight distributions, etc all are vastly different between men and women. And different, though less so, between races. Even consider all the physical differences implied by simply having breasts. Occasionally you'll find a genetic outlier, but in cases where the normal distribution tends to overlap strongly with the ideal performance distribution you're going to get a landslide of results. For instance Kenya makes up a tiny chunk of the world's population, but dominates pretty much all marathon running competitions. Even more interesting is it's not just Kenyans, but a tiny ethnic minority within Kenya that's doing this dominating. Some 0.06% of the world's population ends up dominating marathon racing. Most tellingly, Kenya was basically a nonplayer in these events until cultural changes in the 80s started bringing Kenya (and other East African nations) up to the standards of the west in terms of nutrition and general technology. There was a great article on this all a while back [2].

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZR_Racer

[2] - https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/wh...


If the records stand, then it means it’s going to be real damn hard for anyone to beat them without the same suit, right? Interesting. Maybe they’ll stand forever.

Some people are very upset about biological reality subverting the notion that there is no difference between men and women.

> gender-related biological differences

I think in this particular case it's OK to write "sex differences".


If women can do better with ultrarunning, than it is not an example of an activity where biological advantages are not important. Quite contrary.

I don’t think this article makes a valid point that women are biologically advantaged to ultrarunning. It just give an example of an awesome woman ultrarunner. So possible that men and women could be competitors in the same sport.

Yes, maybe.

How important do you consider younger girls having female role models in sports and having professional female athletes?

Non-segregated sports that don't rely on physical strength, speed, etc still tend to be almost exclusively men in the extreme corner of the bell curve that professional athletes occupy, so getting rid of gender segregation would result in fewer professional women in sports.


I don’t have a good answer to how important sex and gender is for young people in choosing role models. My biggest role models in sport don’t share a gender, nationality, or race with me. It’s hard to say how I would have acted if they had more in common with me. Interesting.

Maybe the question, if you think gender is really important for role modeling, is what other physical characteristics would be useful to segregate sports by. I think segregating by sex is valuable when there are sex biases (I don’t know of many gender biases in sports), but segregating to increase participation would be something to think about.


I think it creates false hope. I'd much rather see role models who present realistic goals like teachers and scientists. Sports and entertainment dangle low work high income fantasies.

For me personally, athletic achievement signals hard work. Which is quite useful.

Now I'm sure not everyone thinks that way.

Certainly kids who actually engage in sport will realize this.


It’s hard to imagine many competitive events where biological advantages wouldn’t be important.

I can’t think of too many. Maybe target shooting. Or darts. It’s now a fun data analysis project to look for Olympic sports with continuous, ratio dats that results in ranking where men and women are similar. And start there.

I wasn’t thinking about only biological differences between men and women, but that’s a prominent dichotomy to look at. I think that one big problem with trying to find a competitive event where men and women don’t seem to have biological differences in performance is that, at least according to my impression of the United States, it’s more socially acceptable for boys to obsess over and dedicate a lot of time toward a very specific sport/competition/hobby/interest. I suspect that regardless of any purely biological differences, this cultural tendency will tend to favor males in most competitive events that are fairly well-known and have well-established rules.

Would LOVE to see this as a summer Olympic sport. Talk about testing the absolute limits of human ability.

If you like a sport, don't wish the olympics on it.



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