Pride is a powerful motivational force, which often propels individuals to take on personal challenges and push beyond their limits. One context in which the demand for personal challenges manifests itself very clearly is participation in road-running events such as marathons, which have become increasingly popular over the recent years. We conduct a two-part online study with participants in a ten-mile race in Washington DC, which typically attracts 15,000 – 20,000 (mostly amateur) runners each year. We survey volunteer participants before and after the event in order to study their motivation to perform at their best during the race as well as the pride they derive from their achievement.
Of particular interest to us is the motivation that emerges from perceived threats to one's (self or social) image triggered by others' assessments. Consider Ben who was told by his dad that he should forget about applying to Ivy League schools and concentrate instead on schools ``at his level''. Or think about Carol whose colleagues think she does not have what it takes to be promoted. It is not difficult to think of examples where the desire to prove others wrong pushes people to perform beyond others' (and possibly, their own) expectations. Examples in a sports context abound. We investigate the power of this motivational force in the context of the ten-mile race.
In the pre-race survey (already conducted), 431 participants were asked to tell us about their time goal for the race and were challenged/encouraged to achieve it. Participants saw one of 6 different versions of the pre-race survey, which differed in whether we (i) expressed doubts about their ability to achieve their time goal; (ii) rewarded them for achieving their time goal (with either a $10 or a $25 gift card). The post-race survey collects data about participants’ satisfaction regarding their race performance and their valuation of several aspects of the event such as the race medal.