I remember being told that there is one and only one endurance sport in which the women's world record exceeds the men's world record, and that the sport is Long Distance Endurance Swimming. Reason being that fattier tissue on a woman's body make it easier for women to float for a sustained period of time (and also endure cold/discomfort?)

The idea that women can consistently and at a world class level outperform men physically in at least one sport is appealing ...

But is any of the above true?

  • 7
    I don't know if it qualifies as a sport, but ... Sep 20, 2011 at 1:54
  • 2
    @belisarius - Swimming doesn't qualify as a sport?
    – going
    Sep 20, 2011 at 2:14
  • 3
    the increased bouyancy is of course offset by worse hydrodynamics :)
    – jwenting
    Sep 20, 2011 at 6:21
  • 8
    Definitely, Marriage, statistically Women outlive men by many years. Anyone who says Marriage is not an endurance sport has never been married, or for very long.
    – Moab
    Sep 25, 2011 at 5:47
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    In the news, TV news iirc, I saw an older female swimmer who answers this question twice. Once was in response to someone else swimming across Lake Superior (he had wet suit and took breaks to eat - she just did it) - they interviewed her friend who said her friend had done it better, then they read a comment provided by the woman - she gave the best, most humble comment I have ever heard praising the man who just completed the swim she had done years earlier. The second time was when she swam the butterfly stroke along the east coast. I think she left out of Boston and planned to swim for 48
    – user6685
    Apr 7, 2012 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


The marathon swimming records show that men are consistently outperforming women.

The same goes for many other endurance sports: the records are still held by men.

What you can find however is that women are comparatively better in endurance than men: the relative difference between the times decreases. See for example the article Gender and endurance performance:

The information presented in the previous two paragraphs leads to the prediction that women might compete against men most successfully in events lasting several hours, where overheating and glycogen depletion are particularly common. The limited data we have so far provide preliminary support for this idea. It has been shown that women can sometimes finish ultramarathons in times similar to those of men who can beat them in "short" (26.2-mile) marathons (Bam et al., Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 29: 244-7, 1997). And when men and women with equivalent marathon times are pitted against each other in ultras, the women tend to win (Speechly et al., Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 28: 359-65, 1996).


Longest Current-Neutral Swims currently shows the top four record holders in this category are women.

Also two closely related long distance cycling records are held by a woman: the distance covered in a year and the time to cycle 100,000 miles (ref: Wikipedia 100,000 miles record etc. Note that the year record set in 1939 by a man (75,065) stood until 2015, when it was broken by another man by 1,011 miles, but then in 2017 Amanda Coker exceeded that record by 10,461 miles, which is a very large margin.

However, I'm not sure that any of this is conclusive as participation in extreme endurance sport is rare due to the sheer amount of time it takes. Currently I would have to say it was plausible that women are better in this area, but far from proven.

  • 1
    I fixed the link in the other answer BTW.
    – Laurel
    Feb 17, 2019 at 23:16

The current record for the 268-mile Montane Spine ultra-marathon is held by a woman, who was expressing milk for her baby during the event.

In general women seem to have some advantages in this kind of extreme distance running. There is some extensive discussion of it in this article. At this point is unclear if women will always out-perform men in ultra-marathons or any other event, partly because women's sport science is less developed than men's so the limits are less well understood.

But as it stands today, there are a limited number of specific events where women out-perform men, in the example above by a pretty considerable margin. To answer your question, I'd have to say "no" because of the "one (and only one)" stipulation.

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