Home Running The Growing Competitiveness of Ladies’s Ultrarunning – iRunFar

The Growing Competitiveness of Ladies’s Ultrarunning – iRunFar

The Growing Competitiveness of Ladies’s Ultrarunning – iRunFar


When Courtney Dauwalter crossed the end line of the 2023 Western States 100 in a course record-setting time of 15:29, she made a strong assertion: ladies’s ultrarunning has leveled up. On this month’s column, I make that very same assertion, however much less powerfully. I’ll use graphs as a substitute of world-class athleticism.

Rolling into this previous June, our plan at iRunFar was to make use of the July version of this Working the Numbers column to launch a multi-part sequence that includes outstanding mountain working, ultrarunning, and path working performances that may be higher appreciated with quantitative information. Within the wake of the Western States 100, a pure theme emerged for this text: the growing competitiveness of ladies’s ultrarunning. It’s a pattern that many people are already monitoring and discussing, so let’s use a collection of information so as to add one other layer to those discussions.

2023 Western States 100 - Courtney Dauwalter - course record

Courtney Dauwalter setting a brand new course report on the 2023 Western States 100. Photograph: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Quick Paces from Mile One

Jackie Merritt’s efficiency on the 2017 Western States 100 was a seminar in sensible pacing. As Ryan Witko identified in his “Statistical Information to the Silver Buckle,” the statistical chance of Merritt ending the race in underneath 24 hours that yr was solely 19% when she got here via the primary assist station (at mile 10.3) at a conservative tempo. Not solely did Merritt finally get the coveted silver buckle the occasion offers to sub-24-hour finishers, she handed different ladies all day and raced her method to seventh place. She demonstrated mastery of a racing technique that was thought-about extremely efficient for this occasion at the moment: permitting a few of your rivals to get barely forward of you within the early miles, understanding you would chase them down someplace after the Foresthill assist station at mile 62.

Whereas Merritt-level health and top-10 finishes by no means exit of fashion, the racing technique she perfected presents fewer benefits in 2023 than it did in 2017. As others have identified already (it was mentioned on the Singletrack podcast close to a submit on Twitter by @aidstationfireball/Liam Tryon), eight of the primary 10 ladies via the Foresthill assist station (mile 62) this yr finally completed within the prime 10. Keely Henninger dropped from the race at mile 80 with a dislocated shoulder, whereas Leah Yingling and Meghan Morgan finally handed Jenny Quilty, who went on to complete in Eleventh place. In 2023, it could appear, there have been fewer alternatives for late-in-the-race passing. The quickest runners had been too far forward of their chasers, and we didn’t see vital bonking or blowups. Favorable temperatures could have resulted in comparatively fewer blowups in 2023, and I’m curious to see if pacing methods on the Western States 100 evolve to develop into more and more aggressive from the beginning line.

2023 Western States 100 - Leah Yingling - Eszter Csillag - Meghan Morgan

Leah Yingling, Eszter Csillag, and Meghan Morgan working collectively at Robinson Flat (mile 30) throughout the 2023 Western States 100. Photograph: iRunFar/Jaja Ferrer Capili

Bigger, Sooner Chase Packs

Let’s get again to the spectacular Jenny Quilty. If we’re searching for proof of how aggressive the Western States 100 ladies’s race has develop into, take into consideration how briskly it’s a must to be now, simply to return in Eleventh. Given the status and computerized entry to subsequent yr’s race, ending within the prime 10 is an enormous deal for aggressive runners. Through the years, many Eleventh-place finishers have conceivably felt like “first loser.” However when Quilty crossed the end line in 18:49:13, she clocked the Sixty fourth-fastest ladies’s end ever on the occasion, and the fastest-ever Eleventh-place end. For added context, the chart under exhibits what that ending time would have earned Quilty in any earlier version of the occasion (that had ladies’s finishers). And if that isn’t highly effective sufficient, let me put it this manner — whereas temperature and course situations play a consider ending occasions in any yr, Quilty’s 2023 time was sooner than a few of Ann Trason’s profitable occasions.

Jenny Quilty - 2023 Western States 100

Jenny Quilty working in ninth at Robinson Flat on the 2023 Western States 100. She would go on to complete Eleventh. Photograph: iRunFar/Jaja Ferrer Capili

Competitiveness of Women's Ultrarunning - Quilty pie chart

The pie chart exhibits that, within the ladies’s area, a ending time of 18:49 has traditionally been quick sufficient to at the least get the finisher on the rostrum, and even the win. As not too long ago as 2017, which was thought-about a scorching yr, the profitable time was slower than Jenny Quilty’s 2023 Eleventh-place time. Cat Bradley received the 2017 Western States 100 in 19:31:30.

Blazing Quick Instances

Admittedly, Courtney Dauwalter’s end result requires little or no context for us to understand its significance. She received one of the prestigious 100-mile races, and ran it considerably sooner than every other lady within the historical past of the occasion. However maintain my drink, I nonetheless need to level to some statistics for comparability. “UltraRunning” journal’s annual year-in-review version publishes a roundup of the quickest 100-mile finishes, by gender, from the earlier yr.

The record is usually dominated by outcomes at comparatively quick and flat 100-mile races, just like the Desert Solstice Invitational, Rocky Raccoon, Tunnel Hill, Hennepin, and Javelina. Javelina and Rocky Raccoon are the “hilliest” of these races, with roughly 5,200 toes (1,585 meters) of elevation acquire every over 100 miles, in comparison with 18,090 toes of elevation acquire on the Western States 100. That’s to say that it could be uncommon to discover a end result from the Western States 100 on this record.

However right here we’re, and Dauwalter’s 15:29 end on the Western States 100 would have been the twelfth quickest 100-mile time amongst ladies in North America in 2022, primarily based on “UltraRunning” journal’s record of prime 100-mile occasions. From 2020 going again to at the least 2014, Dauwalter’s time would have been within the prime 5 yearly.

And Dauwalter is in no way a one-off. Katie Schide completed second at this yr’s Western States 100 and in addition ran underneath the earlier course report.

Camille Herron ran 100 miles in 14:41 on the 2023 Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Competition in Australia, after which stored working to finally cowl greater than 270 miles in 48 hours – a brand new world report. For perspective, “UltraRunning” journal solely recorded 13 outcomes sooner than her 100-mile break up between 2017 and 2022, and 6 of these occasions had been set by Herron herself.

Camille Herron - 2023 Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Festival

Camille Herron on the 2023 Sri Chinmoy 48-Hour Competition. Photograph: Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Competition

Are the Ladies’s Races Turning into Extra Aggressive at All 100 Milers?

I acquired curious as as to whether this new degree of competitiveness applies to different races as properly. For this spherical, I made a decision to restrict my consideration to the ladies’s fields of 100-mile races in North America.

I turned to a dataset that “UltraRunning” journal generously offered, which consists of a big pattern of finisher numbers and profitable occasions for ultramarathons in North America since 2012. As a result of the dataset solely lists the ending time for every occasion’s female and male winners, the perfect I might do to measure aggressive efficiency by the ladies’s winner was to calculate their ending time as a share of the boys’s profitable time. From there, I calculated the common for races of a given distance for every year.

As you’ll see within the chart under, the hole between ladies’s and males’s ending occasions was, on common, comparable in 2012 and in 2022. There are a number of doable explanations for this. For instance, a quick ladies’s profitable time received’t stand out right here if it occurred alongside a quick males’s profitable time. It could even be that the ladies’s area is much less aggressive in lots of occasions, bringing down the common.

Competitiveness of Women's Ultrarunning - Women's wins as percentage of men's

The road graph exhibits the common, per yr, of the ladies’s profitable time for each 100-mile race in a dataset offered by “UltraRunning” journal, when the ladies’s profitable time is expressed as a share of the boys’s profitable time. A smaller share signifies a smaller hole between the boys’s and girls’s occasions.

To have a look at these information factors in a different way, I calculated what share of races per yr noticed the ladies’s winner end inside 15% of the boys’s profitable time. I selected 15% as a considerably beneficiant ratio, impressed by analysis indicating the imply gender-based efficiency hole in working sports activities is 10.7%. I figured, for the sake of argument, that if the ladies’s winner of a specific 100-mile race completed inside 15% of the boys’s winner’s time, that runner had maximized their efficiency to a level that was at the least usually akin to the boys’s winner. If the ladies’s profitable time was considerably lower than 15% of the boys’s profitable time, then we would say that runner maximized their potential to a better diploma.

This time, we see there seems to be an growing proportion of 100-mile races the place the ladies’s winner finishes inside 15% of the boys’s winner’s time. Primarily based on the “UltraRunning” journal dataset, 2022 was a report yr for the proportion of races the place ladies had been ending pretty near or forward of the boys’s winners.

Percentage of 100-mile races where women's winning time was within 15% of men's winning time

The road graph signifies that, at an growing proportion of 100-mile races, ladies are ending inside 15% of the boys’s profitable time. This pattern has been particularly pronounced since 2020.

I used to be conflicted about utilizing this metric to aim to quantify ladies’s efficiency enhancements. I needed to attract on a big dataset to search for tendencies throughout many occasions and years. However I additionally acknowledged that every occasion features a males’s race and a ladies’s race, so it may be problematic to measure ladies’s profitable occasions relative to males’s winners’ occasions, as a substitute of evaluating ladies’s winners to their competitors.

In search of different methods to measure competitors in ladies’s fields, I in contrast the rostrum unfold at a number of the most prestigious 100 milers in america. I measured the third-place finisher’s time as a share of the winner’s time. If every race is getting extra aggressive, the unfold ought to be shrinking because the third-place lady finishes on the heels of the winner.

As you’ll see within the chart under, there isn’t a transparent pattern. Apparently, this metric suggests the Western States 100 and Cascade Crest 100 Mile had been each much less aggressive in 2023 than in 2018. In reality, these occasions had the identical respective winners in each of these editions — Courtney Dauwalter at Western States and Yitka Winn at Cascade Crest. Each runners improved on their profitable occasions from 2018. So, whereas each occasions had sooner third-place finishers in 2023, Dauwalter and Winn’s quick occasions nonetheless elevated the rostrum unfold.

Women's podium spread by 100-mile race

The bar graph exhibits the ladies’s podium unfold at eight American 100 milers. An extended bar signifies {that a} comparatively massive period of time separated first and third locations at a specific occasion. A brief bar signifies first and third place completed comparatively shut collectively, which suggests a extra aggressive race. The graph exhibits the newest version of every occasion, plus outcomes from 5 years earlier, to supply perception on whether or not a race has develop into extra aggressive in recent times.

I used to be additionally struck by how, amongst these races, there was no assure that the newest profitable occasions could be sooner than the profitable occasions from 5 years earlier than. I ought to have identified that course information aren’t being set yearly at each race. Within the desk under, I calculated the diploma to which the ladies’s winner improved on the profitable time from 5 years earlier than. Unfavorable numbers point out races the place the ladies’s winner was sooner in 2017 or 2018 than within the newest version of the race.

Competitiveness of Women's Ultrarunning - 100-mile race - winning time comparison

The desk lists eight 100-mile races in america, with a share for every occasion. The share compares the ladies’s profitable time at the newest version of every race to 5 years’ earlier. A optimistic quantity means the ladies’s winner was sooner than 5 years in the past. A adverse quantity means the newest winner was not sooner than the girl who received 5 years earlier than.

Closing Ideas

My preliminary examination of the information means that the Western States 100 ladies’s area is considerably extra aggressive than the ladies’s area of every other American 100 miler. Will that change within the years forward? Statistics from “UltraRunning” journal present ladies’s participation/end charges at North American ultramarathons is trending upward. Because the likes of Courtney Dauwalter and Jenny Quilty encourage these runners, we’re prone to see extra course information and hard-fought podium finishes at races throughout the continent.

Competitiveness of Women's Ultrarunning - Women as a percentage of finishers

The road graph exhibits the share of feminine finishers at North American ultramarathons, as reported by “UltraRunning” journal. The info is grouped by race distance, to acknowledge participation and finisher charges fluctuate by distance. “UltraRunning” journal additionally tracks these statistics for timed races and yard ultras. We determined to exclude these classes from the graph as a result of there are considerably fewer occasions and members in these disciplines.

Name for Feedback

  • Are there different examples you’d name on to focus on the present state of aggressive ladies’s ultrarunning?
  • Since this text was impressed by the Western States 100, it’s particular to 100-mile races in america. Do you suppose these tendencies prolong to different areas or race distances?



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