Think Aloud: An Examination of Distance Runners’ Thought-Processes

Ashley Samson, California State University, Northridge, USA

Theme: Motivation and self-perceptions

Poster Number: 134

Program ID: POS-2

Presentation: October 4, 2013 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Room: Napoleon


There is a considerable amount of literature discussing discussing psychological variables associated with distance runners (e.g., Galloway, 2011; Kamphoff, Harris, Armentrout, & Long (In Press); Lynch & Scott, 1999; Noakes, 2003). Undoubtedly, such theoretical, experimental and anecdotal literature has advanced the quality of research and applied practices of those interested in researching and working with distance runners. While the research mentioned above has significantly increased our understanding of the psychological variables associated with distance running, investigations have consistently used retrospective recall instruments (e.g., interviews and questionnaires) to measure these variables. Consequently, there remains a lack of literature attempting to measure of thought-processes during athletic practice or competition. In this investigation, researchers measured thought-processes by recording “concurrent verbalizations” which means information the participant is attending to at the time and not retrospective in nature (Ericsson & Simon, 1980; 1983). Simply put, athletes were asked to verbalize thought-processes while running but not asked explain or postulate on content (level 2 verbalizations) while participating in a 30-minute treadmill run and a long training run (10 miles +). Ten experienced adult runners (6 males, 4 females) with a mean age of 41.3 years (SD = 7.1) participated in this investigation. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative analysis of the transcripts revealed a total of 456 meaning units, which were further grouped into sub-themes and general themes. A final thematic structure revealed four major dimensions that characterized these participants’ thought-processes during a long-run: Pace & Distance, Pain & Discomfort, Mental Strategies, and Environment. The results from this study offer an insight in to the mindset of long-distance runners and provide several practical implications for sport psychology practitioners working with these athletes.

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