The experience of competing in ultra-marathon running: The perspective of the participants

Duncan Simpson, Barry University, USA
Phillip Post, New Mexico State University, USA

Theme: Novel applications (music, dance, military)

Program ID: LEC-15B

Presentation: October 5, 2013 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Room: Melrose


There has been increased participation in ultra-marathon races over the last several decades (Hoffman, Ong, & Wang, 2010). The majority of prior research has utilized semi-structure interview guides and questionnaires to examine the psychological characteristics associated with this athlete population (e.g., motivation, stress, mood states, etc.; Acevedo et al., 2010; Hashimoto et al., 2006; Kirkby, 2006; Nicolas et al., 2011). However, there has been little research exploring runners’ first hand experiences of participating in ultra-marathon events. Given the increased participation in ultra-marathon running it is increasingly likely that these athletes will begin seeking psychological skills training (PST) from sport psychology consultants (SPCs). Therefore, sport psychology consultants would benefit from understanding the subtle nuances of these athletes participation experience and the various mental demands associated with this sport. The purpose of the present study was to use phenomenological interviewing to explore the first hand experience of ultra-marathon runners who have participated in races over 50-miles. Phenomenological interviews (M = 45.23mins) were conducted with 26 participants ranging in age, (28-70yrs, M age = 45 yrs, SD =8.6), experience (1 to 100+ races), and ability levels (novices to experts). Each participant responded to the following open-ended question: “When you think about your experience of ultra-marathon running what stands out for you? Follow-up questions were asked only to obtain additional details about the participants’ initial comments. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative analysis revealed a final thematic structure with five major dimensions characterizing participants’ experience of ultra-marathon running: Preparation & Strategy, Management, Discovery, Community, and Personal Achievement. The results from this study provide several practical implications for runners and sport psychology consultants working with this athlete population. Additionally, the results provide insight into endurance athletes understanding of competition, and the effects their participation has on lifelong physical and mental well-being.

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