It seems that if you are planning to set a PB at your next marathon, you will be better off sticking with a female, rather than male, pacer. This is based on the findings of Jens Jakob Andersen, who analysed the results of 1.8 million marathons worldwide and found that women were, in general, far better at pacing.
Andersen, a Copenhagen Business School graduate, looked at 131 marathons from the years 2008 to 2014. Breaking the results down to subsets and 5k splits, Andersen found that women were 18.63% more accurate at pacing. The data shows that both sexes slow down—as you’d expect—towards the end of the 26.2 miles, yet women do so less.
This result aligns with that of a similar study conducted at the Chicago Marathon on 2007 and 2009, which found that the better pacers at the race were again women. On average, the 35-39 and 40-44 age groups were found to be the best pacers, with those in the older bracket 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74, the poorest.
Commenting on his findings, Andersen believes that women are better pacing due to the fact they are more realistic about their expected finish time: "Although men are faster marathon runners than women (due to genetics), they are not the smartest. I think it happens because we men tend to have an unrealistic idea of how good we are."
From your experience, would you agree with the study’s findings? Can one sex be smarter than the other when it comes to running?