Our Consultant Group Psychologist here at EWR – Dr Robert Owen – has a theory. To put it simply, he believes that women are better at men when it comes to epic challenges.
Dr Owen spent over a year examining historical epic endurance challenges similar to the upcoming EWR Centenary Race to the South Pole. And the evidence shows that women have historically proved to win out when the going is tougher and longer.
From the Great Trek of the Boer women that opened up the South African Veldt to the pioneers crossing the American West in their covered wagons, it has been women who have proved to be the last ones left standing. And the reasons may be as much physiological as psychological.
Men Are Now The Weaker Sex
Sports studies have shown that women can sometimes finish ultra-marathons in times similar to those of men, even when those same men can beat them in “short” (that’s the standard 26.2 mile version to you and me!) marathons. When men and women with equivalent marathon times are matched against each other in ultras, it’s the women who tend to win.
Women generally also have a higher gradient of temperature from the skin to the body core (that’s why women often have cold hands, for instance) and so it seems they’re more able to maintain a constant body core temperature in cold conditions. On top of this, women appear to burn more fat and less carbohydrate than men during endurance training.
Dr Robert Owen says studies of observed gender behaviours also suggest that many of the perceived differences between men and women might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits. For instance, women tend to be more selfless and exhibit more empathy than men. More importantly, they tend to more readily accept and give support to others, which leads to a high degree of group cohesion. Perfect for building successful teams.
Tony Martin Expects The Women To Win
Extreme World Races MD and organiser of the 100th Anniversary Centenary Race to the South Pole Race in 2011/2012, Tony Martin, believes that women are not just equal to their male counterparts when it comes to extreme environments: he thinks they have the potential to outperform the men.
I’ve been racing in extreme environments for 20 years and, in general, women are better racers than men in these unique conditions. Not only is their team work usually superior, but they also look after themselves better and have a crucial edge when it comes to the mental strength needed for this type of epic undertaking. These are all critical and positive traits for facing the conditions they will meet in Antarctica.
Although the first woman stepped onto the Antarctic mainland as early as 1935, it wasn’t until 1989 that the first women made an expedition to the South Pole by land. And in 2009, an eight-strong team of women from five continents trekked to the South Pole to mark the Commonwealth’s 60th anniversary.