Wednesday, 22 April 2015

*Updated* Run like a girl! - Why do some races get more women?

22/04/15 - I came across another race today that currently has more women entered than men  Just under 57% of entries for the Blackpool 10k, by Fylde Coast Running, are women.  Interestingly there is a both a half and full marathon the same day which have considerably less women than men, a tend I've seen for a lot of events which have multiple races.  The shortest distance race always have more women.  It's been true for Liverpool rock n Roll, EHM, Port Sunlight, Milton Keynes half/full, Wirral half and 10k and the Chester Metric and full marathon. I'm running the half (43% women) but will be paying more interest the the 10k to see what is attracting so many women.  I'll be tracking the results after too to see if these numbers hold true for actual runners rather than just entrants.  I wonder if there is a difference in drop out rates for men and women (although it would be difficult to get a true figure due to number swaps).

Image owned by Fylde Coast Running

25/03/15 - A few weeks ago, I wrote the following blog about the percentage of women at races and after looking at the numbers of local races that I know well I suggested that further research was needed.  On Facebook today I came across a post from Liverpool Spring 10k that brought the this blog back to the forefront for me because their current entry numbers consist of 55% women.  Now, the race is still around six weeks away so there is still time for these numbers to change but the race last year also had slightly more women than men at 50.4%.  The race was not included in my original analysis because I tried to stick with races that I knew but it's certainly one to watch.  I have added to 2014 race to the table below.


I used to be a data analyst in a former life, before I got ill and ended up with Judge Judy and the dog as my only day time companions. When I was at the Liverpool Rock n Roll press conference earlier in the week and heard the stats regarding how many women they got at their races last year I felt that niggle that makes me want to know more, to see the numbers.  It used to take me a few hours to do this type of stuff, gather data, try to understand what it means.  Now it takes forever just to do the easy stuff.  I've been working on it since Monday and I have some data now, the meaning part we'll have to see.

Firstly, Liverpool RnR's numbers for 2014 break down into the following:

  • Marathon - 28.7% women
  • Half marathon - 57.8% women

I've only been racing for just over a year but that many women in the half marathon seemed pretty impressive to me.  I wanted to know if this was duplicated in any other races.  I looked at quite a few but I stuck to races that I had done or knew of (I ran 39 races last year so It's not like I didn't have many to choose from) so that I'd know the basics of the race, how much it costs, the route, what goodies you get, the way in which the race is advertised and so on plus I knew where the results were (I have links to them in my spreadsheet).

The first one I looked at was Port Sunlight, I'd just ran it so it was a good place to start.  54.4% of the 5k runners were women.  I thought it might be a fluke and so I checked last year which was even higher, 57.8%.  The 10k was less, just under 43%.  Of the 22 races I looked at, the top 7 all had a longer distance race on the same day that had a much lower percentage of women.  Does that mean that when women are given the option they will go for the shorter distance?  All races that scored over 45% had pretty decent medals and all but one gave finishers free t-shirts but the goods were the same if not better for the longer distances so that can't be the only variable.

So what about route? Is that an issue, does that play a role?  The Liverpool half and the Liverpool Rock n Roll half both use virtually the same route around Liverpool (which I love because it's my pb course) but Liverpool half was 36.6% women compared to the Rock n Roll race which got 57.8%.  It can't be down to the organisers or publicity either, BTR who organisers the Liverpool Half also put on Port Sunlight and Wirral 10K which are both in our top 5 and are not targeted to women any differently than Liverpool Half as far as I can tell.  So what attracts women to one and not the other?  It can't just be the 'fun' element to the Rock n Roll idea of races because Mad Dog 10k, which has won multiple awards and certainly brands itself as fun still gets almost 7% more men than women.

I included a parkrun in the mix, but only my local one which was 44% women last Saturday.  I'd love to know the breakdown of men and women at parkrun overall because it's entire ethos is running for all and is certainly marketed as an inclusive running event so it would be interesting to know if it still gets more men.  I couldn't find these figures anywhere so I couldn't include them.

So, I'm still not entirely sure what this means.  Other than races with multiple events will have more women in the shorter distances, I'm not really sure what I've learnt.  The races I looked at are included below.  I'd like to look at more club rather than corporate races because the ones on the list at the moment, Birchwood 10k and Warrington 10k, clearly have a lot less women but most club race results don't include gender positions so you'd have to literally count every woman.  It will also be interesting to see if each race gets the same gender split this year.  There's no answer yet but results so far have been interesting. 

        Men    Women       Total  % Men       %    Women
2014 Port Sunlight 5k 105 144 249 42.17% 57.83%
2015 Port Sunlight 5k 154 184 338 45.56% 54.44%
2014 Liverpool RnR Half 1650 1871 3521 46.86% 53.14%
2014 EHM 10k 188 201 389 48.33% 51.67%
2014 Liverpool S 10k
2014 Wirral 10k
2014 Milton Keynes Half 876 733 1609 54.44% 45.56%
2014 Chester Metric 259 216 475 54.53% 45.47%
28/02/15 Warrington Parkrun 121 96 217 55.76% 44.24%
2014 Mad Dog 10 1017 771 1788 56.88% 43.12%
2015 Port Sunlight 10k 582 438 1020 57.06% 42.94%
2014 Trail Half Marathon Wales 227 163 390 58.21% 41.79%
2014 Port Sunlight 10k 722 495 1217 59.33% 40.67%
2014 Warrington 10k 223 139 362 61.60% 38.40%
2014 Rhyl 10 286 176 462 61.90% 38.10%
2014 EHM Half 1290 773 2063 62.53% 37.47%
2014 Wirral Half 757 444 1201 63.03% 36.97%
2014 Wilmslow Half 2474 1436 3910 63.27% 36.73%
2014 Liverpool Half 4240 2445 6685 63.43% 36.57%
2014 Buff Winter Trail Half 216 113 329 65.65% 34.35%
2014 Stafford half 1389 723 2112 65.77% 34.23%
2014 Birchwood 10k 596 305 901 66.15% 33.85%
2014 Conwy Half 1571 794 2365 66.43% 33.57%
2014 Whitley 10k 250 108 358 69.83% 30.17%
2014 Chester marathon 1764 726 2490 70.84% 29.16%
2014 Linverpool RnR Marathon 1658 668 2326 71.28% 28.72%
2014 Milton Keynes Marathon 1524 583 2107 72.33% 27.67%
2014 North Wales Half 311 117 428 72.66% 27.34%
2014 Trail Marathon Wales 234 73 307 76.22% 23.78%

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