Women Running

We opened up this section to Women Running in Senior Runner looking for female runners at all levels to send us their experiences when it comes to running adventures. Are you running for fun or for fitness of training for races?

Men and women have different physical makeups and that is the importance of this section.Below is a perfect example of and article in Runners World published several years ago on Why Women Rule Ultrarunning. So read below and lets get started by senior ladies of all shapes and sizes sending us their experiences.

Why Women Rule
In the sport of ultrarunning, women compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the men, and sometimes beat them to the finish line.
Lisa Jhung
July 21, 2010

In very few sports do women compete against the men. There’s a separate men’s and a women’s Tour de France, a men’s and women’s World Cup Soccer, a men’s and women’s Wimbledon. There are even separate starting times (and therefore, races) for elite male and female marathoners, and the best women in the world rarely crack the top-20 of a major marathon. Paula Radcliffe’s world record marathon time of 2:15:25, set at the London Marathon in 2003, would have placed 16th among the men.

But in ultrarunning, not only do women compete on the same course and at the same time as the men, they really compete—and do well—against them.

At this year’s Hardrock 100-mile Endurance Run held July 9-10 in Silverton, Colo., 39-year-old Diana Finkel led the brutally hard, mountainous race for almost 90 miles before finishing second overall to Jared Campbell. Walking most of the final 10 miles with leg cramps, Finkel came in 1 hour 20 minutes behind Campbell’s winning time of 27 hours, 18 minutes, but shattered her own course record by almost four hours. (Finkel has won the women’s race three times, placing third overall in 2009 and sixth overall in 2008.) Darcy Africa, from Boulder, Colo., placed second to Finkel in the women’s race, and fourth overall among men and women. The 100-mile Hardrock course features almost 34,000 feet of climbing, with an average elevation of 11,000 feet.

At the Vermont 100-mile Endurance Run on July 17-18, Bend, Oregon’s Kami Semick won the women’s race (16:42:32), and placed third overall. She finished 41 minutes behind overall winner Andy Jones-Wilkins (16:01:40 time).

In 2002, Tuscon, Arizona’s Pam Reed won the 146-mile Badwater Ultramarathon outright. She beat all the men, and repeated her win a year later.

What is it about a women’s physiological, or, psychological make-up that makes it possible for them to compete with the men—sometimes beating them altogether—in the sport of ultrarunning?

“With ultra endurance running, women have a huge advantage simply because they’re smaller,” says Jason Koop, personal coach with Carmichael Training Systems and ultrarunner. “As the course is harder, it’s a bigger and bigger advantage.” Koop also raced Hardrock, and the Western States 100 earlier this summer, and will be racing the Leadville 100-mile Endurance Run in August. “The harder the course, the more this is true,” he continues, explaining that the fast nature of the Western States course rarely sees a women in the top-5 or top-10 (aside from the legendary Ann Trason). “But Hardrock has a lot of ups and downs.”

Koop explains that it’s not so much an advantage to be a woman (a small woman) on the ascents, because men, physically, have more developed cardiovascular systems. “Men’s hearts are bigger. Their lungs are bigger,” he says.

“But the descents—like the 36,000 feet of descending at Hardrock—take less of a toll on a smaller person’s body. There’s less eccentric work with the legs. Over the course of time, as descents add up that’s a huge advantage.”

“The harder the race, like Hardrock, or the extreme heat of Badwater, the better women seem to do,” he adds.

Of course, it’s not all physical.

“I’ve always said that endurance running is a small man’s sport,” he says. “But I firmly believe that good women endurance athletes are also psychologically better than good male endurance athletes on the elite side.”

Sports psychotherapist Bruce Gottlieb says that a woman’s ability to endure might be chalked up to a few different factors. “Men tend to think ‘harder, faster, stronger’,” he says, “women tend to think with more determination and tenacity. Especially the kind of woman who tackles ultra endurance events.” He also notes that men and women, historically, have been socialized differently. “Women were really stifled not too long ago,” he says, “and therefore have a tendency to be more complex, in a good way.”

Then, there’s the argument regarding birthing children, and if the natural strength required to bear children is inherently embedded into a woman’s make-up. “Put it this way,” says Gottlieb, “I think there’d be far less children if men had to give birth.”

So let’s hear it, folks, what do you think? What makes women like Finkel, Semick, Africa, Reed, Trason, and others able to stand on the podium shoulder-to-shoulder with the men of ultrarunning? (Aside from them each being fantastic runners, of course.)

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