The Comrades Marathon is a major sporting event on the South African calendar with little research on the motivation and behaviour of serious leisure participants who participate in this event. Following on previous research of Stebbins (1982) where six characteristics of distance athletes/runners were identified and further explored by Shipway and Jones (2007), these characteristics were investigated in relation to the Needs Theory of Personality, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the Symbolic Interactionist Approach within the context of the Comrades Marathon and the phenomenon of distance running. A qualitative explorative study was done to understand the motivation and behaviour of serious leisure participants employing non-probability purposive sampling to select 20 respondents who had participated in the Comrades Marathon in at least 10 years’ races (including the 2011 Comrades Marathon). The findings indicate a strong identification with the activity, as well as social ethos and sub-culture influence in social identity. This research attempted to confirm theory and link the characteristics with Maslow’s (1954) ‘hierarchy of needs’, Murray’s (1938) ‘list of needs’ and the ‘symbolic interactionist’ approach of Mead and Blumer (1969). Due to the inherent limitations of the research future investigation in this field is imperative.