This study identified helpful and unhelpful encouragement at mass participation running events and explored the meaning that runners found in encouragement. First, 10 k and half-marathon postevent surveys differentiated instructional and motivational components of helpful and unhelpful support. Second, an inductive, reflexive thematic analysis of 14 interviews highlighted the reciprocal relationship between the crowd and runners, whereby quality of support was reflected in runners’ emotions and behavior. Participants drew pride in participation and belief from the crowd, and they wanted to “give back” through doing their best. Personal and authentic support was particularly valued. Although support was widely appreciated, at times it created a pressure to “perform.” As a novel intervention based on our combined findings, we recommend that crowds, event organizers, and psyching teams give encouragement “with IMPACT” (Instructional; Motivational; Personalized; Authentic; Confidence-building; Tailored to the distance). Crowds should also demonstrate the “core conditions” of authenticity, empathy, and being nonjudgmental within their encouragement.
Sophie Gibbs-Nicholls, Alister McCormick, and Melissa Coyle
Alister McCormick, Carla Meijen, and Samuele Marcora
This study examined the effects of strategic, motivational self-talk for runners completing a 60-mile, overnight ultramarathon using a randomized, controlled experiment. Data were collected before, during, and after an annual ultramarathon. Twenty-nine ultramarathon runners were randomly allocated to a motivational self-talk group or an alternative control group. A condition-by-time mixed ANOVA indicated that learning to use motivational self-talk did not affect preevent self-efficacy or perceived control. A t-test and magnitude-based inference indicated that motivational self-talk did not affect performance. Nevertheless, follow-up data suggested that most participants found the intervention helpful and continued to use it six months after their research commitment, particularly in endurance events and to a lesser extent in training. Participants continued to use self-talk to cope with exertion, as well as other stressors such as blister discomfort and adverse conditions. Suggestions are offered for future research examining the effects of psychological interventions on performance in endurance events.
Carla Meijen, Alister McCormick, Paul A. Anstiss, and Samuele M. Marcora
There is potential in delivering brief, educational interventions online, particularly for recreational athletes. This initial investigation examined how two online interventions were perceived by endurance participants and how they affected outcomes of interest. After measuring self-efficacy, 142 people were randomized to one of three groups (self-talk, implementation intentions, and control) before an endurance event. Ninety-four completed postevent measures, which were self-efficacy, goal attainment, performance satisfaction, coping, stress appraisals, and social validity. The interventions involved approximately 10 min of initial engagement with online material. Perceptions of stress controllability were significantly higher in the implementation intention group compared with the control. There were no other statistically significant effects. Nevertheless, both intervention groups were satisfied with their interventions, found them useful, and were planning to continue using them. The findings demonstrate the feasibility and value of using brief, online psychological interventions, which may be timely in our changing profession, as COVID-19 has moved many interventions online.