The purpose of this longitudinal questionnaire study was to investigate the effects of participation or non participation in a marathon race on future running behaviour. The majority (70 per cent) of the participants who intended to run a future marathon actually did so and only 11 per cent stopped running altogether. Fewer of the pre-race drop-outs (31 per cent) who indicated their intention to run a future marathon actually did so (P less than 0.001) and more of them (24 per cent) stopped running altogether (P less than 0.001) compared with the runners in the finishers' sample. These results suggest that the experience of running in a marathon does not negatively influence future running habits. However, failure to run in a race for which an entry has been made may lead to a reduced involvement in running. The present study also examined the reasons for pre-race drop-out. Injury (36 per cent), lack of training (31 per cent) and illness (12 per cent) were the most frequently given reasons for drop-out. Few differences were found between the pre-race drop-outs and the finishers, but the drop-outs did feel that running was less important (P less than 0.001), reported a greater number of longer term injuries (P less than 0.001) and did significantly less training (P less than 0.001) than the finishers.
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