What Do Runners Think About? How Much Running Sucks

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What’s going on in a runner’s brain? A lot of thoughts about running, according to new research in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Runners might have one-track minds, sports psychologists from several universities found. 

A group of runners of various ages training for long-distance races (half-marathons or longer) were given recording devices to use to take down their thoughts over the course of a seven mile or longer run. They were instructed to speak their thoughts aloud, to try to get a sense of what runners’ thought processes are like. The researchers found the thoughts they recorded tended to fall into certain themes, almost all of them about the running itself, not some outside daydream. They were thinking about their pace and the distance they were running, the pain and discomfort of running (no surprise there), and their surroundings. They thought about things like their hip pain and how steep the hill they were climbing was.

Granted, the study was very small (just 10 individuals), and the technique used to determine the runners’ thoughts—asking them to think out loud in a recorder—might have lent itself more to talking about things like the immediate surroundings and pain. Who knows what embarrassing, weird thoughts these participants might have had but decided not to disclose? These runners were also training for a long-distance race, not just going for a quick run around the park, so they might be more focused on their performance leading up to a race than a casual runner would be. 

But it does provide hope for all of us non-runners that you can complete a seven mile jog even if the only thoughts that come to you are about how much pain you’re in. 

[h/t: Science of Us]