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Age and Gender Interactions in Ultraendurance Performance: Insight from the Triathlon


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: January 2011 - Volume 43 - Issue 1 - p 134-139
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181e57997
Applied Sciences

Purpose: The purposes of this study were (i) to investigate the effect of age on gender difference in Hawaii Ironman triathlon performance time and (ii) to compare the gender difference among swimming (3.8 km), cycling (180 km), and running (42 km) performances as a function of age.

Methods: Gender difference in performance times and estimated power output in the three modes of locomotion were analyzed for the top 10 men and women amateur triathletes between the ages of 18 and 64 yr for three consecutive years (2006-2008).

Results: The gender difference in total performance time was stable until 55 yr and then significantly increased. Mean gender difference in performance time was significantly (P < 0.01) smaller for swimming (mean ± 95% confidence interval = 12.1% ± 1.9%) compared with cycling (15.4% ± 0.7%) and running (18.2% ± 1.3%). In contrast, mean gender difference in cycling estimated power output (38.6% ± 1.1%) was significantly (P < 0.01) greater compared with swimming (27.5% ± 3.8%) and running (32.6% ± 0.7%).

Conclusions: This cross-sectional study provides evidence that gender difference in ultraendurance performance such as an Ironman triathlon was stable until 55 yr and then increased thereafter and differed between the locomotion modes. Further studies examining the changes in training volume and physiological characteristics with advanced age for men and women are required to better understand the age-associated changes in ultraendurance performance.

1Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Burgundy, Dijon, FRANCE; and 2Schulthess Clinic, Neuromuscular Research Laboratory, Zurich, SWITZERLAND

Address for correspondence: Romuald Lepers, Ph.D., Université de Bourgogne, INSERM U 887, BP 27877, 21078 Dijon cedex, France; E-mail:

Submitted for publication March 2010.

Accepted for publication April 2010.

©2011The American College of Sports Medicine