Page last updated at 23:05 GMT, Friday, 16 April 2010 00:05 UK

Marathon motivation differs between sexes, study says

Marathon runner
The study examined the motives of first-time race entrants

Men and women go through the pain and pleasure of marathon running for very different reasons, a study suggests.

The thrill of competition is said to attract many men while women are more likely to be pounding the streets for weight loss or to "improve" their mood.

The research, presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference, looked at responses from more than 900 first-time race entrants.

However, one expert said motivations were likely to be far more complex.

When I speak to men about running a marathon, they often ask me what time I did it in, or where I placed, whereas women will ask how I felt about it
Elizabeth Loughren, researcher

The study was carried out by Elizabeth Loughren while at Temple University in Philadelphia, who set up an online questionnaire for runners who had just completed their first marathon.

She asked what had prompted them to enter the race, whether they were planning to enter any more races, and if so, why they wanted to do it again.

Some reasons for entering the first race, such as "to feel proud of myself", or "to finish the race in a certain time", were common to both sexes.

But men were more likely to have wanted to see how far up the field they could finish. More women said they were running "to improve my mood", or because they were looking to lose weight in the preparations for the big day.

Slightly more men said they would coming back for another go, and they were more likely to want to lower their finish time.

Ms Loughren, herself a keen runner, said: "For women, the marathon can be more about the experience than the competition itself.

"When I speak to men about running a marathon, they often ask me what time I did it in, or where I placed, whereas women will ask how I felt about it."

'Female-friendly' marathons

Ms Loughren said in past decades marathon running had been geared very much towards the competitive element but many organisers were setting up social or family-orientated events which tended to attract more women.

Dr John Kremer, a sports psychologist from Queen's University Belfast, said that gender was just one of many factors which played a part in driving a runner's motivations.

He said: "Although the findings are not entirely surprising, it may not be that simple.

"Age, for example, can play a big role in your motivations for taking part in sport - younger people are more likely to be motivated by competition, while older people are more likely to be influenced by health concerns."

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