Sense of community among virtual race participants: the case of the Illinois Marathon

Guangzhou Chen, Jon Welty Peachey, Monika Stodolska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose and research questions: The purpose of this study was to explore the sense of community (SOC) among participants of the 2020 Illinois Marathon Virtual Race. Two research questions were examined: (1) In what ways, if at all, might runners’ SOC be created through participation in the virtual race? and (2) What challenges, if any, have runners faced in creating SOC through the virtual race? Method: Photo elicitation interviews were conducted with 20 virtual race participants in the United States. Data were analyzed through open/initial, focused, axial, and theoretical coding. Findings: Findings revealed participants’ SOC was created through authenticity, theming, spectator support, and fulfillment of social needs. However, participants also faced challenges in creating SOC through the virtual race, such as having to take SOC into their own hands and receiving delayed gratification. Implications: Findings contribute to the literature on SOC in sport by examining the under-researched context of a virtual race. This study has practical implications related to organizing a cohesive virtual race that might produce SOC among participants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalManaging Sport and Leisure
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Illinois Marathon
  • Sense of community
  • participatory sport event
  • photo-elicitation interview
  • virtual race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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