Nevill, A.M. and Whyte, G. (2005). Are there limits to running world records? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 37, 1785-1788.
Abstract Purpose: previous researchers have adopted linear models to predict athletic running world records, based on records recorded throughout the 20th century. These linear models imply that there is no limit to human performance and that, based on projected estimates, women will eventually run faster than men. The purpose of this article is to assess whether a more biologically sound, flattened “S-shaped” curve could provide a better and more interpretable fit to the data, suggesting that running world records could reach their aymptotic limits some time in the future. Methods: middle- and long-distance running world record speeds recorded during the 20th century were modeled using a flattened S-shaped logistic curve. Results: the logistic curves produce significantly better fits to these world records than linear models (assessed by separating/partitioning the explained variance from the logistic and linear model using ANOVA). The models identify a slow rise in world-record speeds during the early year of the century, followed by a period of “acceleration” in the middle of the century (due to the professionalisation of sport and advances in technology and science) and a subsequent reduction in the prevalence of record-breaking performances towards the end of the century. The model predicts that men’s world records are nearing their asymptotic limits (within 1-3%). Indeed, the current women’s 1500-m world record speed of 6.51m.s-1 may well have reached its limit (time 3:50:46). Conclusions: many of the established men’s and women’s endurance running world records are nearing their limits and consequently, women’s world records are unlikely to ever reach those achieved by men.
It’s not based on a theory, it’s based on statistics/mathematics providing an observation and a prediction -not my favourite approach, but I thought it might be interesting.
As a universal theory on the subject does not exist and the situation isn’t that clear at distances longer than the marathon (i.e., ultra-marathons), I wouldn’t dismiss studies by top guys at top journals and believe my son’s theories that easily. The present study differs to those published in the past and confirms newer studies on the effectiveness of the application of a non-linear model on predicting future world records -further supporting the assymptote being approached by the current world records in many distances- now applied in inter-gender differences maybe for the first time.
There is a whole, interesting area on this issue; please, search the subject, if you are willing to do so and then please, feel free to comment on the above post and/or “question” my reasoning on taking the time to type that abstract providing some references as to your effortless conclusions, or those of your son.
Admittedly, the conclusion is the same, but you can’t just say this in such a field, you understand…
Just one point - while they may not ever beat mens times in sped events - enurance may be an exception in generations to come - example - Paula Radcliffe has reduced the womens times to a fairly competitive margin.
Prediction and extrapolation:
If there’d been a computor in 1900, it would have predicted that by the year 2000, there’d be so many horses on the street that it’d be impossible to clean up all the horseshit!