Men are more likely to run a marathon for personal goal achievement and competition reasons than women. These are the findings of a study into people’s motivations to run a marathon presented on the 16th April 2010 at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference.

While at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Elizabeth Loughren from the University of Birmingham, UK recruited a total of 906 first time marathoners to the study through race directors, forums and specialist running websites. The 507 women and 399 men who completed the online questionnaires ranged in age from 18 to 72.

Results from the questionnaires were analysed to investigate participant’s motivation for doing their first marathon, their intentions to run another marathon, and any differences in motivators for men and women.

Overall, the most frequently cited reasons for running a marathon were achievement of personal goals, such as ‘to finish the race in a certain time’, self esteem, such as ‘to feel proud of myself’ and health orientations, such as ‘to improve my health.’ Men were more likely to give personal goal achievement and competition, such as ‘to see how high I can place’ as reasons for running a marathon than women. Women were more likely to run for reasons around psychological coping – ‘to improve my mood’, or life meaning – ‘to feel at peace with the world’ – or weight concern.

Elizabeth Loughren commented: “We also asked the participants whether they planned on doing another marathon; approximately 70 per cent of women and 79 per cent of men told us they intended to run another marathon within the next six months or year. The most popular reasons why were: ‘to lower my finish time’ (83 per cent), to include the race as part of a vacation weekend (74 per cent), and to improve upon my training (63 per cent). Over 85 per cent of males overwhelmingly cited to lower their finish time, whereas 79 percent of females did so.”

Elizabeth Loughren carried out the study while at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, as part of her PhD.

British Psychological Society