Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Cancer-Patients-Psychology, Women-Psychology, Cancer-Patients-Rehabilitation, Marathon running-Psychological aspects, Marathon running-Physiological effect, Recovery, Exercise, Control, Marathon


This study explored the experiences of female cancer survivors who have trained for and participated in a marathon after their cancer diagnosis. More specifically, the research focused on women's motivation for choosing to participate in a marathon, their experience with training and participating in their first post-cancer marathon, and the ways in which their marathon experience impacted their recovery process. Further, this study investigated whether women felt they had lost a sense of control during their diagnosis and treatment and if training for and participating in a marathon allowed them to regain a sense of control that had been lost. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 6 female marathon runners, all of whom had been previously diagnosed with cancer. Interviews were based on a semistructured interview guide, guiding the women in sharing their experiences with diagnosis, treatment, training, marathon participation, and recovery. The results from this study indicate that participating in a marathon can positively impact the lives of women in recovery. The women in this sample chose to participate in a marathon because it represented an opportunity to reconnect with a part of their precancer identity, reassure themselves about their body's capabilities, and set and reach a goal. Findings also suggest that there is a parallel between the experience of going through cancer treatment and training for and participating in a marathon. A majority of participants also reported that, while their diagnosis and treatment left them feeling like they had lost aspects of control, their marathon experience allowed them to again feel in control of their bodies and lives. The present research has implications for the field of social work and all those who work with women in recovery from cancer, as it widens the scope of what is possible during treatment and recovery and suggests the need for further research on the positive impact of participating in a marathon after a cancer diagnosis.




v, 65 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 56-58)