Sunday, June 2, 2013

Army 2-mile run: is it fair? (boys vs girls)

The army PT test occurs at least twice a year and consists of a very early morning wake up, a long wait in line to be weighed and height(ed?- not a word), a 2 minute push-up count, and then 2 minutes of sit-ups followed by a 2-mile run at the unit's designated course (track, stretch of road, etc).  It's all very official and though I've done the PT test plenty of times and have always passed (I hope I haven't jinxed myself), I still get uber nervous beforehand.

While I've been blessed never to have a problem with the running portion of the test, I know lots of folks who do.  Sure, some of them simply don't prepare for it, and that's their own doing.  Some people just get overwhelming bouts of The Bubblies.  Some people claim the 2-mile test is "stupid" and "not a valid measure of aerobic fitness," but here we are--with science--and as with all good things, it came from the 1980s:  the 2-mile test is a valid measure of aerobic capacity:
Free eye chart... "This study confirms the usefulness and validity of a timed 2 mile run test to indicate the level of aerobic capacity," thanks Mello, Murphy and Vogel!
 So I don't really want to add anything to that debate.  Let's talk instead about the current time standards for the army 2-mile test, here they are in sum (thanks Wikipedia):
...much studied by everyone the night before the PT test
But on the way to the gym the other day my husband (who has been in the army far longer than I and always passes his PT tests too- it's in our pre-nup*) and I got to wondering...are these charts, by gender, fair?

I suspected that it was more difficult for a guy to max the run than for a woman. As a woman, I hate to say that, but I hate more to think that we have it disproportionately easier, as though we have been expected, quite literally, not to pull our own weight.

The army developed these charts...well, I don't know how.  Here's what I did (math, but not science):

Mad excel skills...well whaddya know

Ignoring p-values or any actual statistical tools, I independently decided that 63.87 seconds is not statistically different from 78 seconds and that army men and women aged 32-36 are roughly equivalent to the participants in a local 5K and the difference in times between the best army runners is about the gender time difference in the best local 5Kers.  So that's nice to know, my fears are assuaged, I am thrilled in spite of my mass generalizations.  There is likely some body of data the army used to determine these time sheets, but I couldn't find it, and independent "verification" is so fun in comparison to what I should be doing anyway.

The true shocking find in my "research project" is that the top male and female runners on our planet are only about 30 sec/mile apart, regardless of the type of race!  New research project ideas are already brewing...

What are your thoughts?  What should my next research project be?

*just kidding, no pre-nup, but if we did have one, well, that might be in there

Sources: DTIC (Validation of 2-mile test)  A fascinating read.  Wish I'd thought of the study, but I was in elementary school at the time they were doing it.