There are many theories about what motivates marathoners. The spirit of the marathon inspires athletes to complete in the distance because of the history of the event, the mystique of running 26.2 miles, and the personal growth and humility that comes from both the tireless training and crossing the finish line.

The 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon can provide different things of value for the favorites. These “objects” can be divided into extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors.

Extrinsic factors are good motivators because they lead to something else that is good. Money is an extrinsic good because it’s a means to an end. Money can allow a person to buy new goods, which will bring happiness to the consumer. Extrinsic motivators are for the sake of something else.

Intrinsic factors are things that are valuable in themselves. Happiness and pleasure are intrinsic motivators because they encourage an individual to pursue a goal because they derive enjoyment from the activity. An individual participates in an activity for its own sake.

Extrinsic motivators are external while intrinsic motivators are internal.

When the gun goes off this Sunday, October 7th, the athletes will be looking to achieve three goals goals: fast times, prize money, and championship titles. Although the three motivators are not mutually exclusive, some of the elite athletes will have a preference for which one they want to achieve.



Dathan Ritzenhein and Why He’ll Run Well

Ritz is running the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon for an entirely different reason. As the previous article refers to the main issue at hand, Ritz is looking to end the cloud of doubt that follows him from race to race. There are high expectations that come with being one of the all-time best high school and collegiate runners.

Rather than dwell on Ritz’ past disappointments, there are reasons to believe that the Chicago Marathon will be his favor. If we reexamine his 2009 running campaign, then similarities can be drawn to the present and we can perhaps expect something spectacular on Sunday.

Ritz’ 2009 began slowly, but ended with historical performances. He began the year by taking second to Meb Keflezighi at the Houston Half Marathon in 61:35. In his highly touted London Marathon debut, he took 11th in 2:10:00. On the track, he ran 13:34.00 for the 5k in Toronto and took second in a tactical 10k at the U.S Championships with a time of 27:58.59.

The next three races showed the difference between Dathan and Ritz. He ran finished in sixth place at the 2009 World Championship 10k in 27:22.28 and was the first non-African finisher. Ritz then traveled to Zurich, where he ran the greatest race of his career. He finished second only to Kenenisa Bekele in the 5k with a new American record of 12:56.27. He then capped his year off with a bronze medal at the World Half Marathon Championships with a time of 60:00.

The key to Ritz’ success is simply staying healthy. He’s battled stress fractures, damaged nerve endings, and fueling issues during marathons for years. When he had his best season in 2009, he was healthy. Now in 2012, he’s healthy again. Ritz does not need to run high caliber times to indicate that he’s ready for a big personal best.

Neither his 13:34 5k or 27:22 10k showed that he was ready to break the American record in the 5000m in 2009. Parallels can be drawn to the present based on his recent performances; 2:09.55 at the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, 13:14 for the 5k, and 27:36.09 for the 10k at the U.S. Olympic Trials are not mind-blowing.

But his 60:56 half marathon a few weeks ago in Philadelphia is like the 27:22.28 10k he ran at the 2009 World Championships. Encouraging, but not overly impressive. Not soon after that race in 2009, he broke the American record.

Ritz is not going into Chicago to run a specific time. Ritz’ coach, Alberto Salazar, told Toni Reavis, 
“He’s been training with Mo (Farah) and Galen (Rupp, the Olympic gold and silver medalist at 10,000-meters.  Dathan finished 13th in London).  We don’t concentrate on time.  Dathan hasn’t run that super time (in the marathon), and until he does he won’t be competitive, but he wants to run with the guys.”

The rabbits have been asked to lead the frontrunners through the halfway mark in 1:02, which would be under course record pace. If Ritz wants to be competitive, he’s going to have to run fast as well.

Ritz’ competitive nature intrinsically motivates him to compete. He’s not running for money or medals, but for himself, fans, naysayers, and America. He derives happiness from running and the Chicago Marathon provides an opportunity to finally fulfill those goals.


Wesley Korir and Philanthropy

Charity is one of the main themes of the 2012 Chicago Marathon. Since 2002, the Chicago Marathon have raised more than $85 million dollars that have benefitted local, national, and international charities.

Wesley Korir is running to support his home country of Kenya. In the long-form profile by Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, Wesley Korir emerges not only as the race favorite, but an individual that people want him to win because of his character. After a long, impoverished journey from Kenya, Korir arrived at the University of Louisville to pursue his education.

When he returned to Kenya in 2007 to renew his visa, the country was amidst a political civil war. While he was trying to escape back to U.S., he watched as a mob set fire to a house in Eldoret, Kenya. Korir told The Chicago Tribune, "That put into deeper perspective what is important in this life," he said. "I needed to put more emphasis on helping people than investing in material things."

Korir has been donating prize money he has earned from competitions towards rebuilding clinics in his home country. Korir’s recent donations sponsored a medical staff that provided healthcare for those in need. Humble, educated, and kind, Korir is the favorite to win the Chicago Marathon not just because of his charitable spirit, but because he’s talented and experienced.

Korir first ran the Chicago Marathon in 2008, but did not start with the elite field. He paid his own way into the event managed to record the fourth-fastest time of the day. Since then, Korir has finished sixth in 2009, fourth in 2010, and second place in 2011 with a personal best 2:06:15.

He’s the two-time L.A. Marathon champion and the reigning Boston Marathon champion. Korir credits his victory in the sweltering Boston heat to the knowledge he received while at the University of Louisville. Korir told Toni Reavis,
I won the race not because of my ability to run, but because of my ability to process things. I thank God for bringing me to America to go to college.  I won because of my intelligence rather than my physical abilities.

This is not the first time a major African athlete has been charitable. Former Chelsea FC superstar, Didier Drogba, has been known to give a large portion of his salary back to his home country of Togo. He’s even credited for helping to end the civil war in Togo.

After 9/11, the Masai tribe gave a gift of fourteen cows to the U.S.

West Africans may be at the top of the U.S. high school, collegiate, and professional running scene, but there’s more to them than running. They’re extrinsically motivated through higher education and prize money from races that will help them support their home countries.

Money and education will inspire and provide new opportunities for those who do not have much in the world. They are extrinsic motivators because they are means to an end.


2012 races

Date Race Place Time
04/16/12 Boston Marathon 1st 2:12:40
03/18/12 NYC Half Marathon 4th 1:01:19


Personal Records
Marathon - 2:06:15 (Chicago, 2011)
Half Marathon - 1:01:19 (New York City, 2012)



Liliya Shobukhova and History

The women’s side features a combination of both external and internal motivators for Liliya Shobukhova. Shobukhova is the three time Chicago Marathon champion and current course record holder has a personal best of 2:18.20. That time set last year made her the second fastest female marathoner of all-time behind only Paula Radcliffe. She entered the 2012 Olympic Games with high hopes in the marathon.

However, those hopes were never fulfilled. Shobukhova dropped out of the Olympic Marathon just after the halfway mark. She cited stomach cramps as the main issue, but others suspect that when the medals slipped away from her grasp, she made the decision to save herself for Chicago.

Redemption at the Chicago Marathon will reestablish Shobukhova as the dominant force in the female marathon world. She’ll not only have her reputation, but she’ll achieve history as only the second marathoner to win four Chicago Marathons (Khalid Khannouchi won four Chicago Marathons in 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2002).

Shobukhova’s main competition will be Lucy Kabuu of Kenya and Werknesh Kidane of Ethiopia. Kabuu has run 2:19.34 in her debut in Dubai this past January while Kidane was fourth in the 10k at the Olympic Games. Although Kidane’s marathon best is only 2:26:15, she has the credentials this year to be able to improve on that time.

Korir, Ritzenhein, and Shobukhova all have personal motivations that they will bring to the line this Sunday in Chicago. Although the three are driven by very different factors, it will not change what happens out on the streets of Chicago.

The work has been completed and there is nothing more that these athletes can do other than be competitive on the course and remember why they are running. Whether it’s for their home country, themselves, or for personal pride, the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be one to remember.