What Runners Think About: How Much Running Sucks

Although, they think about their pace more than their pain
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2015 11:30 AM CDT
What Runners Think About: How Much Running Sucks
What's he thinking?   (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery, File)

Non-runners may look at a runner off in the distance and feel a twinge of envy, because surely that person is in some kind of Zen-like zone, ruminating about life's mysteries. A first-of-its kind study that had runners record their thoughts on the go clears that up: Some samples of the deep thoughts, as cited in a writeup at the British Psychology Society: "My hips are a little tight. I'm stiff, my feet, my ankles, just killing me this morning." And: "Hill, you're a bitch ... it's long and hot—God damn it ... mother eff-er." And: "That sucked but it's going to be an awesome run on the way back." It turns out that the 10 amateur long-distance runners in the study spent 32% of their time thinking about the "pain and discomfort" they were in, say researchers. (The runs were at least 7 miles.)

In fairness, they spent 40% of their time thinking about pace and distance ("downhill, don't kill yourself, just cruise") and the rest of the time thinking about their running environment ("it's so beautiful, the ocean, the mountains" and "hope I don't see any snakes"). A post at New York finds the study interesting but notes that the runners' very act of recording their thoughts may have kept them from "drifting off into daydream land." Still, the researchers think this study and future similar ones will be interesting to sports psychologists. For one thing, runners tended to complain about discomfort near the start of the run, but those complaints tapered off as the miles went by. (Another study finds that running too much can be as bad as sitting around.)

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