# Marathon Swimming Puzzle - Are women better?

#### DNA100

Registered Senior Member
OK, I just read something very counter-intuitive, and that is that in open water swimming ultramarathons women match and often outperform men.

I looked at the record times for English channel. And men seem to have a clear advantage in all the events normal(one-way), two-way and three-way.

The Manhattan Island Swimming marathon world record is also held by a guy named Oliver Wilkinson, but the second fastest ever record is held by a woman and she is very close(only 45 seconds slower ).

But in Catalina Channel women seem to have a clear advantage with the 3 fastest times ever apparentlty being by held by women. And the average time for women also seem to be clearly better than men.

So can anyone give a scientific explanation for these 2 questions-
1.Why are women so good at these long distance swimming given that men have a clear advantage in short distances?
2.Why does English channel seem to favour men, but Catalina channel women?

What's interesting is that among world-class professional athletes, the world’s fastest men swimmers are faster than the world’s fastest women. Several comparisons of the average time of professional marathon swimmers at the Olympics and professional marathon races of various distances demonstrate this fact.
Here is statistics from 2011:
Event - Average Men's Time - Average Women's Time
Olympic 10K Marathon Swim - 1:53.7 - 2:00.9
Capri-Napoli 34K Pro Swim - 7:08.8 - 8:05.1
Hernandarias-Parana 88K Pro Swim -8:27.8-9:02.3
FINA 10K World Cup in Cancun - 2:09.8 - 2:32.5
FINA 10K World Cup in Viedma - 1:55.4 - 2:05.3
FINAs 10K World Cup in Santos - 2:16.7 - 2:22.0

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So can anyone give a scientific explanation for these 2 questions-
1.Why are women so good at these long distance swimming given that men have a clear advantage in short distances?
2.Why does English channel seem to favour men, but Catalina channel women?
1. Possibly something to do with body-fat % , and how it is distributed around the body.
https://thecut.com/2016/09/the-obscure-endurance-sport-women-are-quietly-dominating.html
This report offers this as an explanation toward the end, but in summary women tend to have c.10+% more body fat which may make them more buoyant and thus able to stay afloat more efficiently, thus can conserve energy.

2. May be related to the type of athlete they get at the locations.
E.g. the elite men are generally faster than the elite women, then if more elite men turn up to an event then they will probably seem to be faster on average.
And the above report suggests that the English Channel attracts the more elite swimmers.
So that may explain it.

Interesting find, nonetheless.