The use of prayer in marathon runners

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Mary Katherine Huffman (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Etnier

Abstract: The integration of sport and religion has been a contested combination throughout history, with some believing in the compatibility of the two and others arguing that the union creates conflict. Prayer is a specific behavior that introduces religion into athletic domains, and current literature has investigated the use of prayer by team athletes and coaches. Research indicates that team athletes use prayer to enhance performance and strength, to give thanks, to cope with sport difficulties and relax, to pray to stay safe, and to keep sport and the outcome of competition in perspective relative to their perception of God’s will. Some athletes pray at specific times, and most think this ritual is effective. Other studies have shown that coaches rely on prayer for guidance and confidence in their role as a leader, and athletes may perceive that prayer can bring teams together. The evidence described thus far comes exclusively from team sport settings; absent from the literature are detailed accounts of non-team-affiliated athletes’ experiences of prayer, notably recreational marathon runners. The purpose of this study was to develop a more in-depth understanding of the use of this behavior by these athletes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten recreational marathoners representing the three religions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded, and the codes were then grouped into categories and themes. Following the analysis, five themes emerged: long distance running as a space for the use of prayer, prayer to change one’s thoughts or outlook, requests to aid in the physical aspects of running performances, prayer for appreciation and thanks, and the effects of prayer on interactions with others in a running setting. These findings expand upon existing research regarding the uses of prayer in sport by extending our understanding to individual long distance runners. Furthermore, the findings of this study support previous suggestions regarding the spiritual aspect of leisure activities. Lastly, results provide new directions for future research regarding prayer and sport.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Prayer, Religion, Runners, Sport psychology
Marathon running $x Psychological aspects
Prayer $x Psychology
Long-distance runners $x Psychology

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