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Ultra marathon runner earns awards for both first place woman and overall winner (runnersworld.com)
204 points by he0001 32 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 255 comments



Wasn't there a mexican tribe where they run marathons all the time? IIRC, a woman from the tribe participated and won an ultra marathon hands down (and wearing slippers made of tyres or something like that)

Found it - https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/05/24/inenglish/1495618559_31...


The same tribe detailed in the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall that was very popular a few years ago.


The book that led to the runner's fracture in my left foot. Note to future readers who tend to overdo things: we may be born to run, but not on concrete.


I came to this conclusion after trying to run in Vivo Barefoot shoes on tarmac (thankfully without the extra prompt of an injury). The technique he describes - avoiding heel strike and running on the balls of your feet to allow your Achilles tendon / calf to provide spring - is a good one, but it's just as effective in cushioned running shoes. I do wish running shoes had wider toe boxes like the Vivo ones though.


Check out the Lems Primal, or maybe the offerings from Xero shoes.

From my personal opinions, people getting fractures from running barefoot likely need to change diet and running gait even more then they thought. I've personally adopted bone broth as a daily staple to my diet and I credit it with feeling fully recovered after my first 24hr race within 2 days.


That's where Altra's come in. Wide toe box, zero drop, but cushioned.


Thanks, will take a look.


I tried to listen to the book and got bored to death.


These are descendants from a chaste (or chastes) specially dedicated to carry messages across long distances in the mezo-american empires, namely the Inca.


what a blow to "modernity"..


David Epstein kind of makes this point in The Sports Gene. We think modern training and diets make us better athletes then our ancestors, but really much of the progress on world record times have come from better tracks and shoes.


Barely, if any, difference between the sexes in races at this distance. More women competing mean more will continue to win. Congrats to the BAMF who won.


It's great when women win these races, and I wish there were more, but don't get the misperception they are somehow faster in this sport compared to men than in other sports. It all depends who shows up on the start line. Elite women are faster than nearly all the men, so if an elite woman shows up, but no elite men do, she will likely win. List of ultrarunning records: https://ultrarunning.com/featured/ultrarunning-magazine-all-... Normally awards are for "First Place Male" and First Place Female." Not sure why this race had an award for "overall."


Looking at those record tables has me wondering what GP is referring to when they say that barely any difference exists between the sexes...


Normalize it based on the fraction of women in the race to start with maybe?


Go for it. Knock yourself out trying to prove there are no differences between the sexes.

While you're at it normalize success at giving birth based on the fraction of men to attempt it.


To be fair, the differences here seem to be smaller than in other sports, suggesting that while testosterone is a factor it may be less than it is in other sports. If 90% of the competitors in these races are male, that would further impact this discrepancy.


> If 90% of the competitors in these races...

Why would that matter? They're not running as a group; if you're the fastest then you win. This isn't a probabilistic thing. Lots of slow men crowding the starting line isn't going to impact who finishes first.


I'm not sure I even understand your argument. It's possible we're saying different things? What I'm saying is that if X people try a sport the records they set won't be nearly as good as if 100X people are trying it. Winners are by definition outliers, and the larger your population, the more (and more extreme) outliers you will see. So if there are five times fewer women than men () competing in a sport, that will impact comparisons between women and men, even at the top levels, at least if you want to compare innate ability. Almost certainly, the women's records and top female performances would look better if there were five times as many women trying the sport as there currently are. Do you disagree with that?

I pulled up the most recent Ironman race; there were 5 men for every woman in the competition. So I'm using that as a rule of the thumb. But the same logic applies to any population imbalance at the top of the funnel.


If 90% are men, all else equal, you would expect men to win 90% of the time.


That's quite the leap of logic hiding in that deceptively small "all else equal", what leads you to believe that everyone in a race has an equal chance of winning it?


>what leads you to believe that everyone in a race has an equal chance of winning it?

I made no such assumption.

If you pull runner speeds from any distribution, and label 90% of those numbers "male" and 10% "female", 90% of the time the highest speed will be labelled "male".

Even if you are pulling the female runner speeds from a slightly faster distribution, if most of the people running are men then men will still win most of the time.

Failing to normalize by the population sizes at the start of the race is a blatant mathematical error. Until you fix it your argument is flawed and if you don't fix it you're willfully wrong.


> I made no such assumption.

You literally wrote "all else equal" in your comment.

> pull runner speeds from any distribution

Not true. If I pick a distribution of elite women and non-athlete men, all of the top finishers will be women. You're assuming speeds are normally distributed; they are not.

Where is this data that you're citing here? It doesn't line up with any data I've seen, nor with my extensive experience in amateur racing. Most races are won by the same small group of elite runners. The size of the field is immaterial as the majority of racers have no chance of winning.

Normalizing for population size might make sense if you actually had to beat everyone independently. Fortunately, you're only racing the person in first so everyone else can be safely ignored.

Put another way, if Michael Phelps is racing he's going to win. You can only win by beating him, the rest of the field doesn't matter.


>> I made no such assumption.

>>You literally wrote "all else equal" in your comment.

That's different from the assumption that all competitors are equally likely to win.

>You're assuming speeds are normally distributed

No. Any distribution will work.

>Where is this data that you're citing here?

I didn't say anything about data. I said your argument has a blatant mathematical flaw. You said "why would it matter" in response to "if 90% of the competitors [are men]". It absolutely matters. Even if you do turn out to be correct about women being worse at this sport, you are only right in the broken clock sense.

>Put another way, if Michael Phelps is racing he's going to win. You can only win by beating him, the rest of the field doesn't matter.

The people who show up to the race are coming out of some distribution. Michael Phelps isn't showing up to every race. The probability that you win the race comes down to how fast you are vs. the max of n samples from the distribution of runners.

The list of the winner of some annual marathon is a really shitty piece of evidence. Out of all the racers and times taken, it gives us data on exactly one of them. It is especially useless to try and breakdown running ability by demographic because it doesn't even tell us how much data we have on each demographic of interest.

If you don't see why just citing the list of marathon winners fails to reject the hypothesis that women and men are about equal at ultra-marathons, then you don't understand what makes for a good data-supported argument.


This is what happens when you don't look at the data and argue from your gut. We don't just learn about one person, timed races release bib data for everyone in that race.

If you're a data nerd and a runner armed with this knowledge, it will have occurred to you to wonder if distance (in time) from the winner is correlated with gender and field size. It is not. Thus, you're proposing that we "normalize" for something which is shown to not have an effect on who wins a race.


To quote them:

> at this distance.

~~All the distances in those tables are significantly longer than the 50k this article was about.~~

Edit: Ah, I missed it due to the weird order - but my original point stands, there is no point in ignoring part of someone's comment when trying to rebut them.


They are still slower... but the gap is a little more narrow. Men will definitely have an edge in shorter distances.


Interestingly, the 100m record difference is about 10%, which is roughly the same as the gap in the ultramarathon records (and in the record mile time). So the difference is fairly consistent across distances.


I don't think it's quite that close -- there may be sample size/participation factors involved here. For example, the top US women seems to be competitive with the top ~10 US men, which in more testosterone-dominant sports would never happen.


No? The link geargrinder posted literally also has a 50 kilometer table.


Erk, I missed it scrolling down (the distances are in a pretty random order)


Do you people have bad eyesight or something. This whole thread is weird.


Honest question: why do you consider it great when women win these races, as in, is it in some sense worse when men win them?


Because it does highlight what women are capable of and it is certainly something to celebrate. Also, when it does happen it creates an interesting story which brings more attention to the sport (like this one did).


That women are winning these races, is a credit to this sport. Sports have no intrinsic value that isn't somehow tied to the good they do for humanity. We should judge them by their fruits. Even so, the vast majority of sports are constructed so that, on average, men have big advantages. It could be that it's easier to construct a sport that way. It could also be that constructing a sport that way better appeals to the prejudices of society. After all, there are some sports in which women compete at the highest level. For example, horse racing, open-water swimming, and as we see here "ultra" running. It's not necessary for women to win all or even most of the top prizes, but it's great that they win sometimes. Personally, although I enjoy watching gendered sports like ice hockey and American football I definitely see them as inferior to sports that exhibit more gender equality.


I don’t think anyone “constructed” running. People have been running for millennia.


Sure, running in general is basic to humans. The particular circumstances of particular races, like "so many laps over this particular course through the mountains" are very much a decision that some people made. Such decisions affect the results of those races.


It is illogical to believe that races were "constructed" by somehow varying the number of laps or terrain to make sure men win. It is far more likely that races were "constructed" to mimic the types of terrain people already ran.


Yeah well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.


It's generally accepted history. But believe as you wish.


As long as there are men who think men are inherently better than women at all things, then we need to celebrate when women smoke them in a race.


No, it´s better for everybody - the human race wins.

Let´s say you had a bunch of computers, and somebody had told you a certain type always ran slowly, so you never used them for anything fast, and even put them on slower connections, because of that. And then one day, you discovered if you connected them up to faster links, they ran faster.

You now have a larger number of faster computers. As with computers, so with society, it´s not a zero sum game.


Looking at those dates in the 24 hour and 100 mile. Most of the women records are in the last 5 years, and some of the men’s records are from much longer ago.


Nothing to back this up, but my gut instinct is:

1. Men generally tend to be faster than women

2. Women generally tend to be better at long-endurance than men


All the records actually show men still have the physical advantage at these distances that they do at shorter distances. It would be cool if somehow women were faster in comparison the longer the distance, but the records don't show that to be the case.


I didn't say faster, I just said more enduring, able to last longer, etc..


How does that NOT translate to 'faster' in a endurance race?


Because being initially faster does not mean being able to run faster for the entire race.


This is pedantic, even for HN! Who said anything about being "initially" faster? To win a race, you need to maintain the fastest average speed out of all competitors, plain and simple.


Not really, my point was that the typical male, while able to run faster outright, typically will slow down. Professionals of course will know their limits and run at a pace they can keep. The typical woman tends to run slower, but more able to keep a consistent speed and thus could come out in front.

But this is for the average case and not the professional case, where men tend to dominate anyway.

https://blog.mapmyrun.com/are-women-better-than-men-at-long-...


> Barely, if any, difference between the sexes in races at this distance.

Are there any facts that back up this claim?

50k is barely over marathon distance, and there is a huge difference between woman and men on marathon distance (~2:01 for men vs ~2:15 for woman (10% slower).

I don't know of any longer distance running event in which such a gap doesn't actually increase. That is, the larger the distance, the slower woman actually become relatively to men.

At the far end, for example, for the Spartathlon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spartathlon), the fastest men complete the distance in around ~21 hours while the fastest woman takes ~24 hours (13% slower). If you look at the times of the top 3 males and woman of each year, most years top 3 mens finish in ~<24 hours, while women are at ~<31 hours.

It might be interesting to visualize the gap per year vs the temperature. There are some studies about how heat affects the running performance of men and woman in marathon distance races, but not so much for long distance races (https://insights.ovid.com/article/00005768-200703000-00012). IIRC (don't take me for this), heat affects slower runners more independently of sex.


> Barely, if any, difference between the sexes in races at this distance

This is 31 miles, which is not much longer than a standard 26.2 mile marathon. Marathons have a lot of competition, so we can see how top athletes compare, and there the record is 2:01 for men vs 2:15 for women. What you're saying is for much longer races.


my understanding is that event distance and gender spread are not linear.

I believe there’s a wall at about 20 miles, too.


> I believe there’s a wall at about 20 miles, too.

~20 miles is the distance that a "median" person can run before muscle glycogen is depleted and less efficient energy-production mechanisms must take up the slack. The size (and duration) of one's muscle glycogen stores depends on many factors, including the physical size of muscles, efficiency of reintroduction of liver glycogen, training status, running economy, GI effectiveness vs stress, and many others.

Interestingly enough, in longer ultras one gets the chance to conquer the "wall," recover, and then hit it all over again, maybe several times.


It's hard to tell how much things like that reflect the shape of the maximum human performance curve, vs which sports are worth it for which athletes to reach peak performance.


Congratulations to her. But that’s really not true. Women’s records lag behind men’s records in all endurance categories. Women’s results lag behind men’s results in major events. The woman’s world record marathon wouldn’t be a first place at any major event. Her time in this 50k was more than an hour and ten minutes behind the 50k world record suggesting the competition at this event simply wasn’t very stiff.


a good example of endurance differences would be the track bicycle hour record (merckx type frame/wheelset, or modern track bike) difference between men and women:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hour_record

men: 55 km

women: 48 km


When people talk about women being better than men at endurance, they don't mean things at the ~1hr level. Instead, the events where the top women are close to competitive with the top men are at the ~days level.


> Instead, the events where the top women are close to competitive with the top men are at the ~days level.

People keep repeating this idea throughout thread but as user geargrinder posted earlier, the difference at the ~days level is pretty big, at least in ultra running. For example [1]:

1000 miles Records

Men: Yiannis Kouros - 10 d + 10:30:35

Women: Sandy Barwick - 12 d + 14:38:40

I had also heard - and believed - the idea that women were roughly equal at ultra distances but seeing the tables posted by geargrinder has been a massive revelation to the contrary for me. Is there some other proof that indeed backs the claim that women are roughly equal at large distances, or is this a total urban legend?

[1] https://ultrarunning.com/featured/ultrarunning-magazine-all-...


FWIW, Yiannis Kouros is an outlier even among men.


No one who actually follows running thinks that.


The fact that the parent comment was talking about “these distances” aside, men still outperform women in that level of ultra-endurance. The problem you have though is getting any meaningful samples. Each course is different, those races have very few entrants, and far fewer female entrants. Some of those races have been won by women, and there are even some particularly obscure world records held by women, but nothing you could reasonably point to as a trend.


I understand that, but was trying to think of an endurance sport that removes as many physical variables as possible. Same track, same equipment, same temperatures and atmospheric density, etc. The question about multi day events is that there's a number of variables for choosing a route over off-road courses, peak effort during a particular time of day (sun is up vs down), how much sleep a person gets.

The people who regularly win RAAM (race across america) are the masochists who are able to combine peak athletic performance and 2.5 hours of sleep a night for a week.

Obviously something else much longer than 1 hour, with as many variables removed would be a better comparison. I don't think a traditional road race would work, since there's too many variables about team/pack strategy, the peloton, breakaways, etc. But possibly a 2 or 3 hour solo time trial on the same course.



testosterone doesn't just help with building muscles, it helps with muscle recovery and creating red blood cells.

I would guess there's a sweet spot in distance where the finish times in men and women are closer, but considering testosterone helps with muscle recovery and creating red blood cells, I don't think it would be a multi day distance.


> “I ended up taking both awards—the overall winner and the first place female,” Pell said. “I felt bad that the first place man didn’t have one, so I tried to convince them to blot out the ‘fe’ on ‘female’, but they said to just keep both trophies. It was pretty funny.”


That's just an incompetent race director. There is no end to the lack of thought put into award schedules. I once got three (cheap plastic) medals for winning various categories that all overlapped during an awards ceremony that went on way too long.

I suspect that this is the same (boring) situation, but runner's world being the garbage magazine that they are figured they could push the sociopolitical angle and get more clicks.


In running, female only trophies follow the same philosophy as age group trophies. Overall winner is reserved for whoever crosses the line first. Then there are M/F age groups for older runners (5y wide age groups most often starting at 30), and "female overall winner".

Having male only trophies is most often redundant because 99% of overall winners are male. That's just life. From time to time, an high/elite level female runner shows up when there are no elite male runner and she takes the overall winner. And that only happens in niche races (niche being every race longer than a marathon and some smaller city races). Ultras are also more likely to have DNFs (did not finish).

There's yet to be a popular race (6 majors, olympics, world championship, even regular "city marathons" etc.) where there's an overall female winner, because both m/f elites show up and men win by a huge margin.


> There's yet to be a popular race (6 majors, olympics, world championship, even regular "city marathons" etc.) where there's an overall female winner [...]

It wasn't a major city race and probably had a lot of casual runners, but I ran a half marathon earlier this year with around 20,000 participants. A woman won the overall in 1:18:30.

The people who are good at this are just so much better at it than the average person. A fast woman, even if she isn't faster than the fastest men, will still be faster than 99.9+% of them.


>The people who are good at this are just so much better at it than the average person. A fast woman, even if she isn't faster than the fastest men, will still be faster than 99.9+% of them.

That's not in doubt. An extremely skilled person will outcompete the field, all other things being equal. Unfortunately, with reference to most sports, all other things aren't equal, which is why good high-school male teams in sports such as soccer can credibly compete with national-level adult female teams.


But 1:18 is far far away from any professional result. That’s actually confirming what I said. I’m friends with two people who can beat that (1:16, 1:15). They have day jobs.

That race just wasn’t that competitive, even if it had 20k runners.


>There's yet to be a popular race (6 majors, olympics, world championship, even regular "city marathons" etc.) where there's an overall female winner

Courtney Dauwalter dominates men in Ultra races, you can call them niche races if it helps your ego, but lets call those races what they really are...the longest and most grueling races, stacked with elite and professional runners.


A woman won the overall/men's title at the 2018 New York City Marathon. It only had 55,000 runners and is the biggest marathon in the world, but don't let facts get in your way.

You must be massively confused. Confused by the name of the overall winner, perhaps? In Ethiopia, that’s apparently a man’s name. I don’t know how we’re talking past each other, but a person with a penis crossed the line first at NY in 2018.

EDIT: mm, I see; stealth edit. Well, I already typed a reply...


Courtney Dauwalter is my favorite runner, but the races where she dominated men were really not the most competitive ones. The theory I read says that difference between the sexes gets less as the distance increases, but even in the marathon there is over a 10% difference between women's and men's world records. Or take UTMB, the most competitive ultra out there taking about 24 hours to finish. The women's winner was 33rd and 41st overall the last couple of years.


>The theory I read says that difference between the sexes gets less as the distance increases

That is my understanding also. And that's all I am saying, I'm not saying a woman is going to go out and beat Bolt in 100M sprint or even win the WR for the mile.

Still to acknowledge the playing field levels over distance and then dismissing those races as niche isn't fair. Read these comments, they suggest the only reason Daualter wins is because men don't practice these runs, that is ridiculous, no one is waking up and running 240 miles.


Is it Moab 240 that you're referring to? Tell me which of the men she beat was elite. Courtney had a great race at Western States last year and dominated the women's field, but she was 12th OA and almost 3 hours slower than the OA winner.


Here are the MOAB 240 (2017 results) I guess not a single runner is elite in your minds eye. You can also check the 2018 results and see if any live up to your standards as she holds the overall race/course record.

https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=43733#id14104...

>Courtney had a great race at Western States last year and dominated the women's field, but she was 12th OA and almost 3 hours slower than the OA winner.

And one year she failed to complete that race altogether. She holds multiple records, had has won multiple races overall, but certainly I'm not saying every time she races she wins.

List of races she won (beat the men):

Mueller Marathon

Behind the Rocks Ultra

Continental Divide Trail Run (50k)

Coldwater Ruble (52 miles)

Moab 240 (238 miles)

The Bear Chase (50 miles)

Riverbank one day (24 hour run)

Desert Solstice (100 Miles)

Javelina Jundred (100k)

FANS (24 hour run)

The Chatfield Ultra Race (100k)

Tommyknowcker 12 hor & The mine shaft Half (100kk)

Chase the Moon (12 hours)


You tell me which of those races had an elite men's field and who those men were. Or give me odds that a woman will be top 5 at UTMB.


Obviously its impossible, what is being said is if Courtney won, then the men's field was not elite. Courtney won those races, so by definition you won't find any of the men meet you definition of elite.

I did give you the names of the races she won, you could look at the fields and confirm of the hundreds/thousands of runners she never beat an elite make runner.

Here is a question, since your the authority how many ultra runners are elite and are they all male?


You're putting words in my mouth. Let's say elite men are top 5 overall at UTMB; that's why I asked you to give me odds for women making it there.

But please prove me wrong by answering my question directly. Which race had an elite field of men that she beat. Not just one runner, because by that definition I have beaten sub 2:05 marathoners who DNF-ed.


What am I a Vegas odds maker?

Again I can't prove a elite field of men in the races she won, because I don't know you definition. Only you know your definition of elite ultra runners, so why don't you look at the fields instead of having me guess?

I can tell you plenty of the runners are ranked in the top 10% for their group (age/sex) overall, but something tells me that being a top 10% ultra runner in your group doesn't qualify one as Elite under your definition.


You have a much more generous definition of elite. To me elite is somebody who has a chance to win in any race regardless of who else shows up to compete. By that definition Courtney is an elite woman, but I do not believe that she would have a chance to win UTMB overall, or Moab 240 if all the best men showed up.


>To me elite is somebody who has a chance to win in any race regardless of who else shows up to compete.

Yes, my definition is more generous. But it also comes from the industry itself, in my experience marathons/races generally will have "Elite runner" applications/registrations. Like regular registrations/corrals the Elite Runner registrations are time based, and generally waive %'s of the race fee based on prior qualified race times. These are elite runner's in my mind, but in no way do most of them stand a chance of winning any given race on any given day.

And yes sort of by default I would place the top 10 finishers in a 238 mile race like Moab in the Elite category, they all appear to be top 20% of their group in overall Ultra rankings, so they are not the best for sure and its fine we disagree on their status of elite. I certainly wouldn't (and not saying you are, but others are) diminishing Courtney's accomplishments by saying she won niche races against untrained runners...I think its fair to say untrained runners don't run 50/100/238 mile races.


There is no elite field in ultras, only in big road races. Look at the PR-s for the elite guys here: https://www.baa.org/john-hancock-announces-2019-boston-marat... . The slowest one has a 2:13 which is below women's world record and 6 minutes faster than any of the elite women.


Men still holds the records for all categories, only reason a woman wins is that very few practice ultramarathons:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultramarathon#IAU_World_Best_P...

You can see that the top man ran 433.095 km in 48h, while the top woman did only 401.000 km in that time, so he was about 8% faster. Compare that to 100m where the men are 9% faster, so the male advantage is basically constant with respect to distance.

Of course the worlds fastest women will beat any man who doesn't practice, so dedicated women have no problem beating men in smaller races.


>so the male advantage is basically constant with respect to distance.

No the men's speed advantage is lost over greater distances. Yes, less people run utlra's but also of those who do run them, they are higher caliber runners on average (professionals/elites).

>Of course the worlds fastest women will beat any man who doesn't practice,

She is beating professionals in these ultra's, people don't just roll out of bed and run 240 miles without practice. And she has beat them by as much as 10 hours. She even holds the record for longest run in a 24 hour period and its not because men don't run that race, hell David Goggins has done 24 hour races and she beats him by over a half marathon.


> She even holds the record for longest run in a 24 hour period

No she doesn't, she held the womens record for that category but never the mens.

Men record 24h: 303.5 km

Women record 24h: 262.2 km

Dauwalter record 24h: 250.0 km (155.391 miles)

> She is beating professionals in these ultra's

I highly doubt that, there are extremely few professional ultra-marathon runners. She might beat professional marathon runners, but that is another sport so isn't really comparable. It is like beating a 100m runner in a marathon, women can do that easily.


That is a fair correction, not at all WR for 24 hour period. WR for a 24 hour race.

>there are extremely few professional ultra-marathon runners.

That is generally fair, but there are extremely few professional runners period. But per capital, you will find the the runners of 100 mile/240 mile races are going to be more elite on average than your average marathon runner. Are there less ultra runners sure, is the average ultra runner more likely to be elite than a casual runner? I still don't consider Ultra runs niche, and by default I think its wrong to say if a women runs a race, by definition that race is niche.

mikestew 32 days ago [flagged]

She even holds the record for longest run in a 24 hour period

It's time to give up on this throwaway account, you're just spewing garbage now. The 24 hour record is held by someone who has a penis attached to their body, and the women's record is not held by Courtney. And a woman didn't win the NYC Marathon in 2018. Three strikes...


Please don't do personal attacks on HN or post in the flamewar style, regardless of how wrong someone else is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Yeah, that was a bit uncalled for, wasn't it? Apologies.


you can call them niche races if it helps your ego

I call them niche races because as one who dabbles in the occasional ultramarathon, I had to go look up most of the races she's won. She wins Western States, then we have something to talk about. Your overweight neighbor has heard of the New York City Marathon, not so much Run Rabbit Run (a race Courtney has won outright).


Nonsense from a user with a throwaway.

>Courtney Dauwalter dominates men in Ultra races

She will sometimes beat them, if that's what you mean.

>you can call them niche races if it helps your ego, but lets call those races what they really are...the longest and most grueling races, stacked with elite and professional runners.

Even the most competitive ultra is a niche race. If the award money for ultras increased 10x overnight then east africans would be dominating in 5 years (the most competitive ultra in the world, UTMB, has a reward of €35,000).

And competition wise, races in america are a far cry from european ultras which will often have thousands of runners. Not to mention thousands of meters of elevation.

The fact that this woman's many extraordinary achievements are buried under titles like "Women are better then men in ultras" is disgusting to me.

EDIT: Oops east, not west africans.


>She will sometimes beat them, if that's what you mean.

Yes, by as much as 10 hours in the MOAB 240, she set the record in a 100K race, she won another 100 miler by 75 minutes. She set another record in a 24 hour run.

>Not to mention thousands of meters of elevation.

Like the MOAB 240 in Utah she won by 10 hours with 29,467 feet of elevation?

>The fact that this woman's many extraordinary achievements are buried under titles like "Women are better then men in ultras" is disgusting to me.

Where did you get those quotes? Maybe you should consider you are "disgusted" by the woman's accomplishments and frame them as "She will sometimes beat them," without being able to acknowledge the degree of her victories over 2nd place male runners. Does she win every race she enters? No, of course not, but when she wins, she sets records and we are not talking seconds or minutes.


Running 240 miles thru a desert and winning against all competition is very impressive, but how on earth do you spin that to a generalization like "she dominates men in ultra races" is totally beyond me.

>Does she win every race she enters? No, of course not, but when she wins, she sets records and we are not talking seconds or minutes.

You literally made my point.


> You literally made my point.

In that case it's possible to rest in agreement and there's no need to keep fighting a flamewar. Please don't do the latter on HN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


So to say she dominates, mean she must win every race she enters? I don't think so, otherwise you just literally made my point, men don't dominate women (i.e. they don't win every race).

Yes, she dominates...when the 2nd place male athlete isn't even close that is domination. 10 hour victory from her 1st place to 2nd place, 75 minutes from 1st place to 2nd place...that is domination in running.


This is what domination looks like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%ADlian_Jornet_Burgada#Sel...

She is THAT, for women. She is not that for men. Case closed, or at least it would be with anyone who actually runs ultras, or runs at all.

If you can't understand that breaking a record by 10 hours means that the previous record was shit, then I don't how to help you understand that.

In any case I don't like discussions with people who hide behind throwaways. Because I have a feeling you're just trolling me.

Push your weirdo agenda as hard as you like, I don't care. People like you are ruining this forum.


Personal attacks, like you did here and upthread, will get you banned on HN, regardless of how wrong or annoying another commenter is. Please edit such swipes out of your comments here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


No one would argue that isn't consistent success at the highest levels of running.

>If you can't understand that breaking a record by 10 hours means that the previous record was shit, then I don't how to help you understand that.

I get it you don't like women, and their success threatens you and your identity. What were you saying about weirdo agenda? You can't seem to acknowledge the few hundred men who have been unable to break her record (or come anywhere close for that matter).

>Case closed, or at least it would be with anyone who actually runs ultras, or runs at all.

I look forward to watching you compete against her in a future Ultra and showing us all how she is shit and her records are shit. In fact, as your accusing me of using a throwaway, tell us all your real name and these Ultra's you have competed in and lets see if we can find a single race where a women didn't beat you.


Would you please follow the site guidelines (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html) when posting here? You've been breaking them with bits like these:

> I get it you don't like women, and their success threatens you and your identity

> You really seem obsessed with penises

> you can call them niche races if it helps your ego

We ban accounts that make a habit of posting in the flamewar style, so please edit such swipes out of your comments here, even if another commenter is wrong or annoying. They degrade discussion badly—it's notable how much worse this comment is than where things started out—and I'm sure you can make your substantive points without them.


Minor quibble but I think you mean East Africans, not West Africans.

Also, most of the East Africans are actually from the same tribe/town in Kenya, Kalenjin.

But your overall point, agreed. The only reason these races are not dominated by African runners is because of the low prize money involved.

E.g. if Eliud Kipchoge ran a 2:01 for the first 42K he could have walked the remaining 8K and still beaten the winner of this race by an hour.

Nothing against her or the other ultra pros, but the facts are as you describe.


Yeah, my ego is at stake here. Sure.

Anyway, yes, any race longer than a marathon is basically niche when analyzed based on the prize pool, media exposure, number of professional and recreational practicioners.

Seeing the rise of US skill in football (soccer), we in Croatia like to joke that the only reason we can win a world championship here and there in waterpolo, handball etc., is because americans still don’t find the sport interesting.


Good fact presented poorly.


Is it better to just present falsehoods as facts in a polished manner? Or downplay woman's accomplishments as niche, when its clearly the harder accomplishment? What causes one to do those things?


Surely you're not arguing that these ultra-marathons aren't niche compared to, say, the New York City marathon or marathons in the Olympics? It seems like a bad-faith argument to assume the person you first responded to is belittling the races just because women can and do win them, rather than because they get MUCH less publicity/interest. No reasonable person is going to suggest a 50K marathon isn't physically way harder than a standard marathon.


>Surely you're not arguing that these ultra-marathons aren't niche compared

The speed advantage men have, and I never said they didn't, is lost/leveled over distance, so to dismiss these longer races where women can and will filter to the top is odd when making a point about men's superiority. Do less people run them, sure, does that make them niche? No, thousands of people still run Ultra's, its not like we are talking about 1 trained woman and a bunch of untrained men.

>It seems like a bad-faith argument to assume the person you first responded to is belittling the races just because women can and do win them, rather than because they get MUCH less publicity/interest.

"And that only happens in niche races (niche being every race longer than a marathon..."

I don't think it is bad-faith to interpret the post as saying, men are better than women, but acknowledge women do sometimes beat men (statistically more likely in longer races), but then broad brush stroke those wins as "only in" niche races. But I'm not going to get stuck in debating what is niche, especially when it has now devolved into "more niche than marathons."

Nothing wrong with remaining objective that men do have a clear speed advantage over women, but that advantage diminishes over long distance, but maybe I am wrong, maybe we should disregard women's wins automatically as niche races.

>No reasonable person is going to suggest a 50K marathon isn't physically way harder than a standard marathon.

People in this thread have.


But the gap is closing!


[flagged]


I disagreed, to a degree with the original comment but to be fair, he wasn’t bashing or downplaying women. I’m making the assumption that it’s a male based on username.

He did, however, pointed to some interesting things and areas which should be explored and debated but your comment, on the other hand, is really aggressive and does not open the conversation to a positive discourse.

Instead of saying “vague pseudo-facts”, why not find some and post as counter point?

And who said HN is better than Reddit? Perhaps more moderated but we’re all human which means we have shitty opinions rooted in nonsense. This doesn’t stop if you register on HN, we just have shitty HN opinion instead of shitty Reddit opinion.

And most importantly, you buried the whole point of your comment because of your anger: the winner of the race did something amazing and should be 100% celebrated. She beat the competition, regardless who was there (male vs female). She can’t control who she runs against. Hence, she deserves to be a champion without an asterisk.

Downvoted were for your tone (I didn’t down nor up vote), not the content of your comment.


Today you're the best. There might be a good argument for your opinion, but today yours is the best one.


Now I'm interested, what exactly in the parent comment is a "pseudo fact"?


> Having male only trophies is most often redundant because 99% of overall winners are male. That's just life. From time to time, an high/elite level female runner shows up when there are no elite male runner and she takes the overall winner. And that only happens in niche races (niche being every race longer than a marathon and some smaller city races). Ultras are also more likely to have DNFs (did not finish).

This entire paragraph.


I’m not 100% sold on your statement. One simple argument you’re making is that men are stronger than women, which is currently true. But why?

From googling for a few min, I found some interesting stuff; For example, women were not allowed to compete in Boston marathon until 1970s [0]. And times within the some groups of runners, since women began competing, is displaying a trend that men vs women times are getting closer (same article).

So this begs the question: since women haven’t been allowed to compete in sports for thousands of years, what will happen to their bodies when they are allowed to compete? In other words, on a long enough time scale, I believe that certain sports will have equal competition (running is one).

There are also clear cases and valid reasons for men being stronger/more fit but the main culprits, in at least endurance sports, is total body fat and hemoglobin [1]. I’m not 100% certain these factors cannot, over time, be diluted into equilibrium.

I’m not a scientist and don’t study such things but my guess is that male dominance won’t always be as pronounced as some folks think. One totally unscientific reason for my hypothesis is that there are just too many edge cases in sports that proved people wrong. The most famous ones, I can think of are: sprinters shouldn’t run standing up (Bolt). NBA players not shooting Free Throws underhand (Berry).

[0]: https://www.outsideonline.com/2386436/are-women-closing-men-...

[1]: https://www.outsideonline.com/2336111/defining-upper-limits-...


> Since women haven’t been allowed to compete in sports for thousands of years, what will happen to their bodies when they are allowed to compete?

I believe the effect here would be mainly in terms of training, recovery, and nutritional science targeted specifically for women evolving over time to increase the caliber of female talent overall.

You also need the recruitment programs, marketing, and prize money to more successfully identify the potential number 1 top females for specific sports, and convince them to devote a lifetime to training for it.

It’s not an evolutionary (gene pool) thing, it’s an environmental thing.

I would assume certain sports lend themselves more toward selecting for physiology that both men and women are equally likely to develop (e.g. hemoglobin) and others will tend to benefit from testosterone or muscle mass that men will always hold an inherent biological advantage, meaning the sports should maintain distinct biologically male and female playing fields.


In my opinion, you’re spot on. There will be areas of a unified sport field while other sports are simply impossible (boxing comes to mind).


> since women haven’t been allowed to compete in sports for thousands of years, what will happen to their bodies when they are allowed to compete?

I am not sure I get it. Are you suggesting that the reason men dominate almost all sports is not due to their undoubtedly greater physical capacity, but due to some societal discrimination?

Also, are your suggesting that evolution works such that appreciable biological differences show up in just a few thousand years?


Based on data, some sports are showing that women are becoming as competitive as men, within a very short timetable when they were able to compete.

I’m making a statement based on data not a weak held opinion.

My opinion that in some cases, I do believe that with time, women and men will compete at the same level. Will it be boxing, American football, or Rugby? Most likely not. Other sports, however, may converge on a unified field.

With regard to biology, again based on the data, it seems that women and men are converging to a level playing field.

Also, if you took the time to read both articles, I did try to have a balance view showing there are physiological superiorities in male athletes.

In endurance sports, it seems fat and hemoglobin are the male superiority (less body fat + larger bodies and hemoglobin count). Question I pose is will this trend continue into eternity or will there be a time when such differences are mitigated via sports science?


> Based on data, some sports are showing that women are becoming as competitive as men

Which sport? I know that they can compete in shooting and some other dexterity based competitions, but other than that men outclass women in every sport I know. Men just have more energy and power per body mass in addition to having more body mass, so for everything where you have to move around yourself or something else men have a huge advantage.


Were men hunters and women gatherers because of gender norms?


No. Women are a more valuable resource and hence had to be protected.

If most men die, we can repopulate if there is a large population that is able to birth young. If most women die, resources are diminished because of time consideration.

Men go to war because they’re expandable. Why are you bringing in gender norms into the equation?


I don't give clicks to rags like outsideonline.com, sorry.

On another note I'm always amazed how confident HN posters are about any subject, even when they admit all their knowledge comes from a few minutes of google searches and articles.


An example where we treat men as the default and women as atypical?

https://www.abramsbooks.com/product/invisible-women_97814197...


Happy for Ellie Pell (aka "Woman" in the article title)

Sexism of low expectations. Race director wanted to be sure to include a best in class trophy for women, which is fine, but assumed (incorrectly) that there wouldn't be a need for a best in class trophy for men. Assumed that they'd just get the 'best overall' trophy.


> Sexism of low expectations

> “It’s tricky, because in the world we live in now, people would think I was being sexist if I just gave out overall awards and didn’t have female-specific awards,”

Ironically, it seems that the race organizer had first set out not to have gender-specific awards at all, but they chose to add the female-specific award to avoid accusations of them marginalizing women's achievements (and being labelled "sexist").


From what I've observed running those ultras are just as much of a mental task as they are physical. Granted you need to be in extreme physical shape to do one of these. I feel that if you were to take a bunch of people that are physically capable and enter them, those with the mental fortitude are going to be the ones coming out on top and/or finishing.

I am wondering if this is part of the reason why women are able to compete just as well as men on equal footing.


Nothing against women but they are not able to "compete just as well as men on equal footing" in ultras. Her time of 3:58 is more than an hour behind the men's record, suggesting the men's competition at this race was not strong.

At the shortest distance, 100 meters, Flojo still has the world record at 10.5 seconds, a full second behind Usain Bolt's 9.5. Whether long or short races, women cannot physically compete with men.

In the ultra world Sierre Zenal was just recently run where Killian Jornet set a new course record, and Pike's Peak Marathon is in a few days. Most of the serious ultra runners are doing those events, not this one.

That being said, very cool for her.


Sierre Zinal is a pretty short race - it's only 31km. Serious ultra runners run a variety of distances, including the very long ones such as the UTMB (160km) and the Tor des Geants (340km).

Earlier this year Jasmine Parris won the Spine race (the UK's best known very long ultra: 400km along the Pennine Way in January). Not only did she break the overall course record by 12hrs, she also beat the previous year's winner (Eugeni Sole), who was evacuated off the last hill, 6km from the end, while in 2nd place.

Allez les filles!

Steve (edit: spelling)


A BBC article about Paris:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-4...

"Mrs Paris did the race during a week-long break from writing her PhD thesis"


I'd love to see her reaction to a naive reporter asking, "Congrats on your record finish. So, are you going to be taking some vacation before your next race?"


I wonder how long that will last, when people chemically "optimize" their bodies for winning. At some point, wouldn't the genetic advantage men have be lost among the testosterone supplements?


Men can take the same testosterone supplements as women, so men will continue to win this arms race.

It would be interesting to see what the androgen receptor density is between males and females; if by some weird quirk, the receptor density is higher in females, then "doping" with anabolic steroids could theoretically be more effective for women. But at that point you are blurring the line and violating almost all principles of fair sport.

Note, there is one sport where doping is essentially permitted, and that is professional bodybuilding. And we have yet to see women with bigger, denser, thicker muscles than men. So I think even with unlimited doping, men still have some kind of innate advantage.


A healthy woman have 10 percentage points more body fat than an equally healthy man, and it isn't not available energy since the body will go into starvation mode as she gets close to 10% body fat.

In essence this means that women carry 10% dead weight throughout their whole life, not a big deal in daily life but in competitions it will slow you down by about 10% given that everything else is equal.


> Whether long or short races, women cannot physically compete with men.

[Citation really seriously needed]

Edit Haha, love the downvotes for asking for evidence for an unsubstantiated claim.


I think it might be because most everyone here understands that human sexual dimorphism is a thing, and it's unrelated to personal politics. If you need evidence, check literally every single track and field record on the books. Show a counter example, and people here might be more willing to entertain your snark.


You're literally commenting on a counter example.


Read that again - I didn't say a single outcome in a single race, I said records.


You said, "show a counter example". You really need to work on your phrasing if you were referring to records.


It's clear you're being intentionally intransigent here. If you're willing to have a discussion about the facts, as opposed to your inability to comprehend simple sentences, then I'm game. Otherwise, please take your axe and grind it elsewhere.


My only axe is with people who make sweeping claims without evidence.


Says the person who, when confronted with objective evidence that defeats his argument, refuses to accept it.

Male elites do not run every single ultra race out there, obviously. Why should they? A course record is not a world record, and there is not a single world record a woman holds over a man in running at any distance, from 100 meters to 100 miles.

Your refusal to admit the obvious makes you seem like you're just trolling people in this thread.


I just quoted the 100m and the 50K records but feel free to compare all distance records for men and women: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_world_records_in_athle...


Seeing a fair few female names in the ultramarathon category. Again, keen on evidence for "women cannot physically compete".


Here's a list of ultras: https://ultrarunning.com/featured/ultrarunning-magazine-all-...

As others have stated, elite women can best nearly all hobby jogging men. But they can't compete with top ultra runners like Jim Walmsley or Killian Jornet.

So if you define "competing" as "having a legit chance to win" then no, elite women cannot outrace elite men.

But always cool and good to see a woman win overall, hope it helps publicize the sport more. The fact that it has people here on HN talking is a good sign.


Are you looking under the women's table? Can you provide a _single_ point where a world running record is held by a woman? You're really sticking your neck out on this point and I'm curious if you actually have a counter example or are just stirring the pot for personal reasons.

Look, I am all for empowering women and as far as personal politics goes, I think we're on the same page. However, nobody is doing anyone any favors by wishing away biological differences present in sapiens, and many other species too[1]. This is a stone fact of our biology, it's up to us what we do with it.

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



These are all one-off races that can't be compared against global records. I currently hold the record for "sitting at luma's desk and typing things", that doesn't mean I'm a world record holder. Take a look at sanctioned events that pull in world-class competitors (which was what the original link pointed to).


Boy howdy those goal posts keep on moving huh.


> I'm wondering about your personal reasons also.

That's an ad hominem for something you clearly did not properly check yourself.

- "Edit Berces, 24 hour treadmill world record holder; holds several Hungarian records". She actually had the overall when she got it, broken by men since then. (http://www.recordholders.org/en/list/treadmill.html)

- "Frith van der Merwe, set Comrades Marathon records for both directions". Female records. When she ran the 5:54 down record in 1989, the men's record was at 5:24 from three years before. When she ran the 6:32 up record, the men's record was at 5:27 from two years before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comrades_Marathon#Winners_and_...

- "Elena Nurgalieva and her sister Olesya Nurgalieva have won a total of 10 Comrades Marathon titles between them; Elena holds the uphill course record (6:09:24)." They both won the _female_ editions. The lead man finished 30+ minutes ahead of them. The record is a female record (see previous).

- "Camille Herron, first ultra athlete to win 2 World titles in the same year (2015- 50K and 100K); 2017 Comrades Marathon Champion; holds the World Best for 50 Miles (5:38:41), 100 Mile Road and Trail World Record (12:42:40), 12 Hour World Record (149.193 km, 92.66 Miles), 100 Mile Track World Record (13:25:00), and 24 Hour World Record (262.193 km, 162.919 Miles)[22]". Women's world titles. Women Comrades Marathon Champion. Women's World Bests. Just scroll up in the wikipedia page you linked: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultramarathon#IAU_World_Best_P...

What you linked is a list of very impressive ultrarunners, male or female. The women you then linked from that list _are_ incredibly impressive runners in their own right. They would beat nearly any man that shows up. They are still outcompeted by their elite male equivalents though and it is not even close.


The fact that there is a separate trophy which only women compete for, is a pretty good indicator that its generally true. Why else would a female trophy exist?


Historical preponderance of male competitors is an easy explanation off the top of my head.

For an obvious example, Katherine Switzer, who entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 and got chased down for gasp being a woman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOGXvBAmTsY


Organized races in America were predominantly white in the early days and yet when other ethnicities started to join (in small numbers at first) no special trophy was needed. They were able to compete immediately for the overall trophy just like all the other men.

Historical exclusion from competition doesn't make sense as a reason for modern under performance.


Did you watch the video I linked about how women were explicitly discouraged/banned from entering long-distance running? The now infamous image is from 1967.


How is that the least bit relevant? I'm not arguing about the quantity of female victors historically (which obviously is affected by their unfortunate exclusion)

I'm talking about races today where women must compete for a Woman's-trophy because they are generally not able to compete with the male athletes. That is exactly the reason for having a Woman's trophy in the first place. Which is how this sub-discussion started.

Even though black runners were excluded from early races, there was no need to create a special trophy for them. When the ugly practice of excluding them ended, they tended to dominate.

My point is the very existence of a Woman's trophy is an admission that, generally speaking, they can not compete on equal footing with men. Obviously there are fun exceptions like in this story where a woman wins the overall race, and all credit to her for doing so.


Definitely

Running with some intensity is tiring, even if the pace is slow enough, also I think marathoners manage to deplete their glycogen supplies in the race

However, focusing on running for the entire time is something I personally (and I guess a lot of people) wouldn't be able to do.


Title should be "50K ultra organization failed to manufacture a 'male' trophy.", clickbait 100


Fiona Kolbinger outright won the most recent Transcontinental bike race, in Europe. 4000km from eastern Bulgaria to northwest France.

https://www.transcontinental.cc/report


I look forward to the day that gender is removed from the Olympics and the football World Cup.

Not only will it be non-sexist it will half the cost of staging it letting poorer countries do it too. A win for everyone.


So back to countries only sending men, then?


There has been a theory going around for a while, supported by a growing body of evidence, that women might actually be better at some endurance events than men.

https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=wom...

EDIT: POTENTIALLY better obviously, not ACTUALLY better, since currently these events are generally won by men.


What can a "growing body of evidence" be, when performance at these events is precisely timed? Either women win or men win.


Race performance measures talent + training. Inasmuch as optimal training for women is less understood than for men, they may have room to improve that doesn't show up in race times. Talent at race time is also socially dependent, because it depends on recruiting, and female athletes may be less likely to be discovered.

These factors came together in the 1970s to produce a rapid improvement in women's marathon times, while no corresponding drop happened for men's times. While they never caught up to men's, the women's record in 1985 was better than the men's record in 1950.


I see, so it's less about a growing body of evidence and more about women training better and improving their times. I'm very interested to see whether they will get as good as/better than men in some sports.


Marathon/Ultra swimming is one where women do much better. Multiple theories as to why; higher body fat and low bone density makes it easier to float, bigger hips means more buoyancy towards the back of the body when swimming, and/or higher pain tolerance. Men can't get anywhere close to the records that women ultra swimmers set.


Confirming: there was an ultra marathon swimmer on Rogan a few months ago who does various swims between the Hawaiian islands - he said the exact same thing.


That's where I got this information! Great episode.


> higher pain tolerance

Are there any scientific studies confirming this?


I am not sure, which is why I listed this as a theory.


> higher pain tolerance

myth


Sign of the times: I had to look at her picture to see if she was an actual woman.


What's the length of the run?

50k could refer to 50km, yet, ultra usually refers to longer runs like 100km - 50 miles are 80km, so what would make more sense.

Judging by the time per mile they state in the article, it's 50km.


Ultra refers to runs longer than a conventional marathon (42km~). 50km is generally the starting point for the ultra distance though and 100km is a more common benchmark.


I could not understand their reason for not having a best male trophy in the future. Can someone who understood it explain it? Thanks.


I don't understand why this is being downvoted, is a perfectly legitimate question.


Same here, especially since they plan to keep the female trophy.


It's just the way this particular competition was set up. Instead of male and female, they added a top female award and kept the other one "overall."


seunosewa is referring to these paragraphs:

> After the race, Hardy ordered a first place male trophy to be made for Ellsworth. When asked whether the race might offer first place male trophies in the future, Hardy said probably not. Instead of giving out more awards, he is more interested in awarding the top six finishers, regardless of gender.

> “It’s tricky, because in the world we live in now, people would think I was being sexist if I just gave out overall awards and didn’t have female-specific awards,” he said. “But I think a race is a race, and the best women can beat the men on a given day. And that’s awesome. Other times, they don’t make the podium. What we don’t want to do is water down the prestige of placing on the podium, no matter if you’re a man or woman.”


> people would think I was being sexist if I just gave out overall awards

So having female award is sexist and not having that award is also sexist.


The exception that proves the rule.


She didn't win the 'Male' trophy, she won the winner's trophy and the 'First Female' trophy.


This is the point of the quotes around the word "Male". It's not for emphasis, it's to show that there's another layer of interpretation at work.


The whole article is confusing.

> Unfortunately, while there was an award made for the first place female, there was no award prepared for the first place male. Instead, there was only a trophy for the overall winner, which was predicted to be a man.

What the heck? This confusing logic is all throughout the article.


The issue is that the man didn't get a trophy for winning his class. Most times, that's the overall trophy, and then there's an additional one for the fastest woman.

So the article is clear enough, I think, given that most runners know this already.

Edit: I haven't commented on if I think this is a good thing or not, just explaining the article.


There isn't, and shouldn't be a "male" class. There's a "human being" class, and a "human beings without the testosterone gene" class. The only reason to have the second class is because only half of the human population has the "testosterone" gene (aka the Y chromosome), and the other half still like to run. If you can win the "human being" class without needing the testosterone gene, more power to you.


> There's a "human being" class, and a "human beings without the testosterone gene" class. The only reason to have the second class is because only half of the human population has the "testosterone" gene (aka the Y chromosome), and the other half still like to run.

While it's always cute when people pretend that human sex is simple and things only get complicated when gender identity is considered, chromosomes aren't genes, the Y chromosome isn't the “testosterone gene”, XY females exist, XY females with a normal copy of sex-determining region Y (SRY) exist, and, as was discovered recently, XY females with a normal copy of SRY who have borne children exist. Also XX females have testosterone at various levels.

It's true that recently was part of how to deal with the evolving understanding of gender in the context of sport, a number of governing bodies have redefined the criteria for competing as a woman to be based on a combination of identity and serum testosterone levels, but that's also not about a “testosterone gene” and at best imperfectly correlates with any particular gene.


Of course I was using shorthand. The point wasn't to paint an accurate picture of the biology of sex selection, but to point out the reason for having a "women's" class: that, on the whole, men have biological advantages in physical activities, and that for most sports, not having a women's class would effectively mean excluding women from competitive versions of that sport entirely. Obviously somewhat less so in ultramarathons than say, sprints or weightlifting; and it's obviously more complicated when you're talking about the top 50 people out of 7 billion, rather than the top 50 people out of a few thousand, or even a few hundred thousand.


Thank you for sharing this added information, but calling what parent said "cute" is unnecessarily condescending.


Interestingly it basically is down to a single gene [1] that's called "Testis-determining factor". And while it's usually on the Y-chromosome, there are actually a pair of conditions where either that gene ends up on an X-chromosome, making an XX individual outwardly male [2], and another where that gene is missing from a y-chromosome, making an XY individual outwardly female [3].

I didn't mean for this to come across as correcting you, I just thought it was neat, and it seemed worth sharing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testis-determining_factor [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XX_male_syndrome [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XY_gonadal_dysgenesis


So, radical proposal: Why not do testosterone-based rewarding? Low-testosterone cis men, high-testosterone cis women, MTF and FTM undergoing hormonal replacement, and nonbinary folks can therefore all compete on equal footing based on testosterone level. Similar to weight classes in fighting.


Because MTF's have a permanent advantage in bone structure and muscle mass. Edit: and also brain volume, neuron count, so maybe reaction times and such are retained too, if you care to look that up.


testosterone doesn't matter at all in ultra endurance competitions.


I don't know enough about the subject to say you're wrong but I'm inclined to given what I know about testosterone's effects on physical development, and I can imagine having stronger muscles means better or longer running. Do you have evidence that testosterone and its effects on muscle development have no effect in such competitions?


Not the person you are responding to but you might find this article interesting: https://www.outsideonline.com/2336111/defining-upper-limits-...

I’m not sure what role testosterone plays in ultra endurance sports but there are other considerations besides only testosterone.


in ultra endurance the slow twitch muscle fibres matter more, not the size of big muscles. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-49284389

there have been quite a few articles lately explaining the situation


Testosterone, among many other things, increases expression of Hemoglobin and red blood cells. So it definitely helps with endurance.


Yeah I had to read other comments to get that. It wasn't clear to me because I just figured there was only 1 trophy period, the way it's written it says there's only one overall trophy negating the previous sentence. English isn't my first language so maybe I'm just getting lost somewhere.


This is pretty common among all professional sports. There is a standard league and a female-only league. Women are free to compete in the standard league, but it's just very uncommon for them to win, which is why the female-only leagues were created in the first place.


Those sentences make complete sense to me. What's the problem?


It sounds pretty straightforward. There was a trophy for fastest woman and a trophy for fastest runner. Since she was fastest overall she won both. There wasn't a trophy for fastest man. The organisers just seem to have assumed that the fastest runner overall would be a man, so they didn't think a fastest man trophy was necessary.


Yeah wtf is a "male" trophy ?


The same thing that the "female" trophy (which they had) is, but for the first male...


No, there is no male trophy.

If there were it wouldn't have been given to a woman, it would have been given to the fastest male (even though he didn't come first).

There is a winner trophy, and a fastest-female trophy. She won both.


I believe thats what drakonka is saying.


Why didn't the first male (i.e. second person to finish) get it then ? (if it was a male trophy).

I don't think it was a male trophy per se, just the organizers expected a male to win.


It wasn't a male trophy, that's the point. I was replying to the commenter who asked "Yeah wtf is a "male" trophy ?" with an answer to what "a 'male' trophy" would be if they had one.


The writing is a bit confusing so here's a TL;DR:

Usually in these races, there are two trophies, one for the overall winner and one for the female winner. This time, since a woman finished first overall, she got both trophies.


I find this a bit strange and maybe it's a cultural/US thing, but the races I have competed in (Germany) always had two trophies: overall male winner and overall female winner. Which would easily eliminate this issue. TIL that this is not the same everywhere.


As I said upthread, it's just a poor choice by a race director. The way you mentioned is how we do it too. They could have chosen to give trophies to the overall winners, to the last place finisher, to the 4 median finishers, or any other silly combination, but they chose what they did and Runner's World wrote an article about it.


Yes. I was initially a bit confused, actually, as in cross-country skiing they often just have a men's category and a women's category, and then it's easy to award the trophies. (As far as I know there is no non-binary modification yet.)


[flagged]


This comment confuses me because the implication here is that people identify as nonbinary exclusively to win trophies in non-existent sports categories? Isn't that just lying?


Can you (or anyone) objectively prove that they are or are not non-binary? It's too easy to cheat and if the rewards are big enough, too many will.


Presumably they'd have to live as a nonbinary person generally, which would come with all the social consequences of being 'out'. Also it may be possible that male-only categories are still rewarded greater than other categories (eg. womens tennis vs mens tennis and other controversies).

If someone wants to cheat, there's easier ways to cheat (doping) than taking on a whole pile of societal judgements in every facet of one's life, constantly, and trying to push against it in affirmation of one's own identity. Including accusations of lying about it for the win.

EDIT: Of course there's no way to objective prove a gender. We don't even have 'objective' ways to prove someone's gender even when they fall upon the binary. We have cis women who have been disqualified for having the wrong chromosomes even though they have qualifying secondary sex characteristics (which athletes have also been recorded needing to be subjected to invasive exposing of their bodies to verify the category).


I know it is a small thing but hopefully they change this going forward.

Having a 'special' female winner while assuming a male will be the 'real' winner is implicit/transparent sexism to me.


It's sexism by definition because it's making a choice based on gender, but that doesn't make it wrong.

Men are more physically performant than women, so if there weren't two leagues then in the overall majority of sports women would just lose.


Well, they said no woman ever won this race so I guess it's a fair assumption that the first place will be a male.

They probably added the female winner trophy to be more inclusive towards women even.

The situation is kind of stupid but does not seem malicious to me, just happened to be like this.


Of course not malicious, but not a little bit presumptuous. As you can see from other commenters here it's apparently not unexpected that a woman might win. The organizers if any, should have had a hunch this might happen, even if it didn't happen before. Well, there were good laughs to be had anyway!


Doesn't seem sexist to me, given that the reason this is a headline is because it has never happened before. Historically, the assumption that a man will win is completely grounded. I also note that the two awards are physically identical except for the text.

What system would be better, here? A single award? That's just the same system as now, minus the female award - now women almost never take home a prize. Separate but equal "mens" and "womens" awards, labeled as such? Now you aren't recognizing the "overall" winner at all. Perhaps three awards - mens, womens, and outright? Might be a good idea for cases like this where the best man gets nothing, but for the majority of cases all you've done is hand another award to the man.

Remember, this is a headline because it's an edge case. Edge cases are a poor guide for good policy.


> […] it has never happened before.

FTA:

> “Obviously there’s a lot of great women runners, but you don’t see them winning ultras outright a lot. When it happens, they get two awards.”

Sounds as though it’s infrequent, but not unprecedented.

> Edge cases are a poor guide for good policy.

Consider this situation to have been a bug in a production environment. Would you advise your junior developers not to patch it, or write unit tests for it? Edge cases are where the rubber meets the road.


I find it interesting that for some people, even when woman get favoured and men get the short end of the stick, they still find a way to paint the situation as sexism againt woman.


Thanks. What a terribly misleading headline then.


This is a cool human interest story but I have no idea why it’s at the top of HN. A random ultramarathon not planning for a woman winning just isn’t that surprising or interesting.


This is a cool human interest story but I have no idea why it’s at the top of HN.

HN readers upvoted it. That's literally all there is to something being on the front page.


If it stays at the top of HN front page, it means that it's relevant for the community. HN is about curiosity and conversations, interesting threads create value so people can learn by spending some time here. In my case, it was the comment of michaelt: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20745614


I agree, great story but seems off topic for HN.

From the guidelines: "Off-Topic: Most stories about politics, or crime, or sports, unless they're evidence of some interesting new phenomenon."

A woman winning a race is not a new phenomenon. A quick google search produces:

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/jan/17/jasmin-paris-f...

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/06/world/fiona-kolbinger-win...

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


That's a terrific achievement. It's extremely rare for women to have such good endurance.


Ultra running is actually one of few sports where men and women are quite close, so I would not agree at all that it's "extremely rare for women to have such good endurance".

EDIT: Added this link for some examples: https://www.runnersworld.com/trail-running/a20803612/why-wom...


Not really.

Sierre Zenal was just run and Killian Jornet posted a 2:25. The top woman, someone who'd previously been caught doping, ran a 2:49.

Or take Comrades, probably the most prestigious ultra, an 89K race in South Africa. Men's record is 5:18, women's record is 5:54.

This race was sandwiched between Sierre Zenal and the upcoming Pike's Peak Marathon, most serious ultra runners are doing one or both of those.

Not to take anything from Ellie Pell, great accomplishment winning Green Lakes, but it is not accurate to suggest that men and women are "quite close" in ultra running, despite what that RW article suggests. Just take a look at the times for any major event.


Sierre-Zinal and Pikes Peak are strictly not even ultras, as they are not long enough. Not to take anything away from them, they are both really good races.

I'm not sure that I'd agree that most serious ultra runners are doing one or both of these two. UTMB is next week, and most of the trail world elite will be there. They will all be tapering right now!

Also, Comrades is a road race, and these are very different form the trail ultras - a lot flatter for starters.

I wouldn't be surprised if we get a female outright UTMB winner in the next 10 years - hopefully 5.


What would the times of the median runners look like? Median isn't the right word, but when you look at record times your looking at extreme outliers in a group that are already extreme outliers relative to most of humanity. If we snipped off these statistical outliers does the gap grow or shrink?


50k is not far from a marathon where men are clearly faster when the level of competition is high. its fair to say 7:40 pace for 30 miles is rare for a woman. also rare for a man!


Trail running seems to be different than road running when it comes to gender differences.


What makes Ultra running different? Women are still about 10k behind men for the world record in the one hour circle track (cycling) and their records are behind men in Olympic swimming (where they should have a considerable advantage due to higher average buoyancy/fat cell density).

For most amateur sports, the numbers will be all over the place. But for pro sports or things like marathons with huge number of participants, you're getting the top of the curve. A pro-woman athlete could dominate most of us average peeps (male and female), but when going against career athletes, we're hitting the limits of how we happened to evolve.

Human males are still larger on average than women when it comes to muscle mass, which is the driving factor for a lot of sports. There are mammals where the females are larger than males on average. Somewhere in out universe, such a species could be sentient like us. It's be curious to see how their own culture of sports, societal roles and dominance evolved compared to our own.

edit: Should have read the link in the above article. Women's smaller average size helps a lot on the downhills apparently.


Not that many people do ultra-endurance races, so you're not reliably getting the top of the curve. Variance is high as competitors frequently don't enter (they can't race all the events as they're too demanding) or drop out due to injury/ill fortune. Male muscle mass is not really an advantage in an event wherein the primary goal is to sustain a low effort for a very long time.

Those are a few of my guesses.


> A pro-woman athlete could dominate most of us average peeps (male and female)

In most sports pro womens’ performance is achievable by trained amateur males, which is why there is controversy around biological males competing as women


> In most sports pro womens’ performance is achievable by trained amateur males

The men's time for a standard marathon is 2:01, vs 2:15 for women. While I wouldn't be surprised if most a lot of amateur men could get to ~3:00 with a lot of work, 2:15 is extremely fast.


One of the theories is women are better able to utilize fat stores for energy. When running, you have a limited amount of glycogen and virtually an unlimited amount of fat stores. When running, your body takes a percentage of glycogen and a percentage of fat for energy. For ultra's, you want that fat percentage to be as high as possible, so you don't run out of glycogen and bonk. The slower you run, the higher the fat percentage. Training at a slow pace helps your body learn to burn more fat and less glycogen. The theory goes that women on average are better able to burn fat for energy.


Ultra running is a completely different duration than the events you mentioned.


Interestingly, the World Endurance record for distance in a calendar year is also currently held by a woman [1] - 86,537 miles, well above the previous record of 76,076 miles.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_cycling_r...


World endurance record in Cycling, for those wondering how on earth would a person run around 250 miles a day for a whole year. An Incredible feat even on a bike.


Any idea why the record from 1939 stood for so long?


This record isn't really that impressive. Average distance a day was 382 km a day. Assuming riding on a road without hills that much can be done by any good amateur, the cyclist just needs perseverance to do that every day all year long and not having to care about a job etc.


As a new-comer to the ultra world I got the impression women did particularly well: https://gearjunkie.com/courtney-dauwalter-moab-200-winner


Last year the NYTimes had a nice writeup about her https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/05/sports/courtney-dauwalter... - I was following up on that and found an interview she did with Joe Rogan in 2017 after winning the MOAB 240, and some of the stories she tells about persevering through physical fatigue (and hallucinations, etc) is unreal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8DfjXnIk6c


I've seen the Joe Rogan interview, it's a great listen. Equally off-putting and inspiring as one of my goals is to finish an ultra.


Endurance != strength.

Women have less strength, for endurance they're close (if not better):

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/women-more-stamin...


another 50 years and the myth of the stronger male will be gone


If that's true, it'll be because the word "strong" is redefined.

I'm genuinely undecided as to whether that's a good thing or not.


Why would it be?


Why would it be a good thing to redefine "strong"?

Or why do I think that's the most plausible explanation for an unlikely event?


A nice fantasy, but how is biology going to change?


not sure, the science has changed considerably since victorian times


And still science indicates nothing like you claim.


not yet


Unless the human hormone levels magically switch, it will not change. It may reveal more details on how the physiology works, but it will not change the base arrangement of the things.


that's what eugenicists and 1930's science said about black people. science believed that black people would never outperform white people due to genetic differences in leg structure back then


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