Abstract| Volume 26, ISSUE 4, e4, December 2015

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In-task Assessment of Psychological Changes During an Ultramarathon Race


      The primary aim of this study was to collect “real time data” on the psychological experience of runners during an ultramarathon race.


      Runners were recruited from a 50-mile trail race held in the Northeast region of the United States. Seventeen runners volunteered to provide in-task data at 2 data collection points on a 25-mile loop course. Single-item measures were used to quickly assess the pain, fatigue, energy, affective valence, attentional focus, motivation to finish, and confidence to finish during the previous segment of the race. Participants responded to each item on an 11-point scale (ie, 0–10).


      Full data sets were obtained from 10 runners. Compared to runners who finished the race, nonfinishers reported higher scores for pain and fatigue at 10 miles. Finishers reported having more positive affect at 10 and 25 miles, having more energy at 10 miles, and having greater confidence in their ability to finish the race at 25 miles than did nonfinishers. Faster finishing times were correlated with less reported pain at the finish and more reported internally related thoughts halfway into the race. Participants reported increases in pain and fatigue, decreases in energy, decreases in positive affect, and a more associative attentional focus as the race progressed.


      According to in-task data collected during a 50-mile trail race, the psychological demands of the race were apparent in eventual nonfinishers as early as 10 miles into the race, particularly in terms of pain, fatigue, and affective valence. Faster runners reported significantly lower pain scores at the finish than slower runners, perhaps because of the additional time that slower runners had spent on their feet on-course. In-task data collection may prove useful for researchers to more accurately assess the dynamic physical, affective, and cognitive changes that runners experience during an ultramarathon event.