The Psychological Profile of the Non-Elite Marathon Athlete: Motivations and Perceived Benefits

Mary Jo Loughran, Chatham University, USA

Theme: Exercise and health behaviors

Poster Number: 108

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


Over 518,000 marathon finishing times were recorded in the US in 2011 (Running USA.org, 2013). Age and gender are widely distributed, supporting the notion that distance running is a lifelong endeavor with broad appeal. The present study sought to shed light on the motivations and perceived benefits of the non-elite marathon runner. 130 marathon registrants (55 M, 75 F) with an age range from 18 – 60+ completed questionnaires including demographics, number of prior completed marathons (ranged from 1 – 55), a Motivations for Marathoning Scale (Masters & Ogle, 1993) and a 22 item Likert-type scale developed by two of the authors assessing Perceived Benefits of Marathoning (PBM) (Loughran, Hamilton, & McGinley, 2012). Participants were recruited from the website for a marathon in a large mid-Atlantic city. A factor analysis performed on the PBM yielded four factors, labeled by the authors as Work/Life Balance; Achievement; Psychological Well-Being; and Physical Appearance. Subsequent analyses revealed a significant negative correlation between the number of marathon finishes and both the Achievement (r = -.192; p<.01) and Psychological Well-Being (r = -.153; p< .05) benefits. As expected, there were overall positive correlations found between marathon motivations and perceived benefits, as well as within subscales of both measures. No age differences were found in any PBM subscales, suggesting stability of benefit across the lifespan. Regarding gender differences, female marathon finishers indicated greater perceived Psychological Well-Being than male marathoners (t = -2.11, p<.05). The results of this study suggest that marathon participation yields benefits across psychological, physical, and social domains across the lifespan. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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