“Come on Legs, Get Me There”

An Examination of Distance Runners’ Thoughts Utilizing the Think-Aloud Protocol


  • Ashley Samson California State University, Northridge
  • Jasmine Lee
  • Jacob Jensen


running, think-aloud protocol, thought verbalization


A considerable amount of literature evaluating psychological variables associated with distance runners is currently available; however, more research is needed that measures thought processes in real-time during physical activity and sport tasks. The “think-aloud protocol” (Ericsson & Simon, 1980) is a well-validated methodology for capturing these processes, and there have been calls for research (Eccles, 2012) that utilizes this protocol in the sport context, particularly with endurance tasks.  In order to answer this call and to build upon previous knowledge using the think-aloud protocol with distance runners the purpose of this study was to use the think-aloud protocol (TAP) to explore runners’ thought processes while on a long training run.  Ten experienced adult runners (5 males, 5 females) with a mean age of 29.8 years (SD=7.7) who were currently training for a half-marathon distance or greater participated in this study. Participants were asked to verbalize their thought processes while completing a long training run (8+ miles) while speaking aloud into an audio recorder. Qualitative analysis of the transcripts revealed a final thematic structure of six major themes that characterized these participants’ thoughts during a long run: social-occupational, environment, encouragement, logistics of running, pain/discomfort, and think-aloud protocol (TAP). The results of this study expand on previous research and provide additional insights and understanding of the complex and changing thoughts and cognitions of distance runners.  Findings from the current study offer important practical implications for sport psychology professionals working with distance runners and endurance sport athletes.


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