Preprint / Version 1

My Feet Hurt

A Qualitative Study of Self-Handicapping in Distance Runners


  • Diana Curtis Springfield College
  • Jasmin Hutchinson



endurance sport, inductive thematic analysis, behavioral self-handicaps, claimed self-handicaps, self-handicapping


Self-handicapping (SH) is a form of self-presentation that allows individuals to protect their self-esteem in the event of failure or enhance their self-esteem via successful performance. This study explored self-handicapping (SH) in distance runners. Participants (N = 158) completed an open-response survey about their experience of SH by self and others. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Major themes were identified for Claimed SH: Injury/illness, training, nutrition, sleep/fatigue, personal factors, and external factors, and for Behavioral SH: Poor preparation, poor nutrition practices, equipment issues, and deliberate illness/injury. Several sub-themes were also identified for each form of SH. Claimed SH was reported with greater frequency than Behavioral SH, which suggests that runners are using SH for self-presentation rather than self-sabotage.


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