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Surprising Science

What Do Runners Think About?

Are they working out personal problems? Or perhaps mulling over the creation of the universe? Researchers say no to both.

What do marathon runners think about with all that time on hand and nothing to do but stare at the scenery going by? Well, BPS reports that a group of researchers sought to find the answers by using live recording data taken from 10 amateur runners.

The study, led by Ashley Samson and her team, is the first of its kind, relying on participants to record their thoughts out loud, rather than try and recall what they thought about during the run afterward. Past studies have tried the latter method, but as most scientists know, memory is often unreliable.

So, Samson and her team got together a group of runners to participate in this new method. They got the runners used to the idea of thinking aloud by equipping them with a recorder and having them practice on a treadmill before the experiment.

After getting the participants acclimated, the researchers let them out on a seven-mile run — the whole time having to record their thoughts aloud. Once the researchers got the recording equipment back, they had to sift through 18 hours of recordings.

They found that a lot of what runners think about while running is running. The researchers heard participants talk to themselves about the pace and how much farther they had to go, the environment around them, and the amount of pain and discomfort they felt during the run. They weren’t working on solving any disputes or working out the origins of the universe — no, just thinking about the task at hand.

Read more at BPS.

Photo Credit: Brendon Thorne / Stringer/ Getty


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