Keep on running and you’ll keep on getting the girls. The science proves that long-distance runners attract more women.
A recent study carried out by a Cambridge University scientist has showed that women are sexually attracted to long-distance runners since, throughout most of our history, endurance runners have traditionally been the very best hunters.
What has long-distance running got to do with hunting animals, you might ask? Quite a lot, in fact. As anyone who has read Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run, will know, prehistoric man used to hunt prey not by out-sprinting it but by pursuing it over long distances. They would chase other mammals tirelessly for hours, gradually wearing them down until they collapsed. This is known as persistence hunting and continues to be used by tribes in certain parts of Africa.
It’s thanks to Dr Danny Longman, from Cambridge University’s department of biological anthropology, that we now know about the connection between endurance running and sexual attraction.
Everything to do with evolution always comes down to getting the best possible genes for your children. That’s because you want your child to survive; that’s the way your genes live on after you die. So whether you’re aware of it or not, every sexual behaviour is motivated by your desire to unite your genes with genes that are better, if possible, than yours – so as to give your child the best possible chance in life.
Longman explains how skills at endurance running are a great indicator of health, fitness, and genetic quality. Endurance running could be an attractive trait because it reflects underlying health. If you had poor genes and were more inclined to illness, you’d be less likely to be a long-distance runner.
However there are more specific reasons why long-distance runners are so sexy. Back in prehistoric times females were easily seduced by the promise of regular food, and the best endurance runners brought home the lion’s share. By successfully tracking and outwitting their prey, the best hunters were also proving they are intelligent – another genetic factor that females subconsciously wanted to pass onto their child. Even those hunters who shared out their meat among the entire tribe were considered to be more attractive, because it was a sign of generosity in their genes.
Longman was pretty thorough in his study. He wanted to prove that testosterone was much higher in endurance runners than in other human beings. To do this he had to to carry out a proven testosterone test by measuring the index and ring fingers of runners.
It’s known as the 2D:4D ratio – as in second digit and fourth digit. If your second digit (index finger) is shorter than your fourth digit (ring finger), this means you’re more testosterone-fuelled, as it’s a sign you were exposed to high levels of testosterone in the womb.
The testosterone test
Longman worked with the organisers of the annual Robin Hood Half Marathon in Nottingham. Using a cross-section of 542 runners, from beginners to elite (439 of them male, 103 female), he approached the runners just after they had crossed the finish line and asked to measure their finger lengths by taking a photocopy of their right hands. Surprisingly, every runner agreed.
There was plenty of euphoria as the runners crossed the finish line so it was an excellent opportunity to ask them to do the test. It was 30 seconds or so after the end of the race, so we gave them time to cool down a little. They were all very interested in what we were doing, but also unsure how a photocopy of their hand could help.
The photocopy was important because Longman and his Cambridge University colleagues wanted to measure the digits very accurately using electronic callipers. And their suspicions were correct: the top 10% of the male runners with the most masculine digit ratios were, on average, 24 and a half minutes faster over the race than the bottom 10% with the least masculine digit ratios. Among the women, the top 10% were 12 minutes faster than the bottom 10%.
While this research is certainly important for understanding prehistoric man, what does it have to do with modern-day runners, on their athletics tracks, park routes, city streets, and gym treadmills? Is it simply proof that we can successfully pick up the fairer sex?
These results are vital in the context of our evolution. But how relevant is this when hunting isn’t important in our society – especially Western society? The main point for runners today would be a bit more philosophical. Our results support the theory that endurance running plays an important role in determining our development as a species and, because of that, running is a basic part of who we are. Now, when you go out for a run, for instance, you can probably feel as if you are more connected to your evolutionary roots through the activity of running.
Whatever the long-term implications of the research, it’s good to know that prowess in distance running can improve your sex life. So next time you boast about having plenty of stamina, and being able to keep going for ages, you’ll be doubly correct.