What is it about?

The Isle of Man TT is one of the deadliest and most controversial sporting events in the world. Competitors race motorcycles at high speeds on public roads flanked by lampposts, trees, bus shelters, houses, and walls. The purpose of the study was to explore how participants storied their journeys to becoming elite TT racers. We wanted to understand how significant people, events, and interactions influenced their choice to compete at TT, and how engagement with such a dangerous sport might contribute to their life meaning.

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Why is it important?

Participants in this study found personal meaning in competing at TT and constructed the experience as invigorating, despite the obvious risk to their physical being. Facing mortality emerged as a central experience triggering riders to engage with the TT as a way to 'live' life, and not merely ‘exist’. Existential psychologists suggest that by creating or discovering meaning in their lives and by living authentically, individuals can thrive. Attributing the motivation to compete at TT entirely to thrill-seeking explanations of behaviour is both ignorant and naïve.


Writing this article was a great pleasure and I would like to thank the participants who gave of their time and expertise for this research topic. I hope the article provides you with a deeper understanding of riders' career paths. I was particularly intrigued by the unique 'boundary situations' that lead participants into making active choices to compete at TT. Several participants also provided deep philosophical insight into what it means to really live life to the full, echoing the words of Seneca, but using more industrial language.

Richard Sille
Liverpool John Moores University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Experiences leading elite motorcycle road racers to participate at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT): an existential perspective, Qualitative Research in Sport Exercise and Health, May 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/2159676x.2019.1618387.
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