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The Psychology of the Marathoner

Of One Mind and Many

Abstract

The unique physiological attributes of marathoners have long been recognised, but until the pioneering research of Morgan and Pollock (1977) little was known about their psychological characteristics. Their work revealed marathoners have significantly better mental health compared with non-athletes, with desirable mental health variables being most pronounced in elite competitors. It was also found that during competition, elite marathoners typically utilise a unique cognitive strategy labelled ‘association’, whereby they regulate pace based upon bodily sensations including pain and effort. More recent research indicates there are considerable individual differences in the psychological responses of marathoners to the stressors associated with training and competition, and in some cases negative emotions traditionally presumed to be harmful actually benefit performance. This brief review will highlight findings of psychological research involving marathoners and other endurance athletes, distinguishing between characteristics common among groups (i.e. nomothetic) with those particular to individuals (i.e. ideographic) or sub-groups of elite and non-elite competitors.

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Acknowledgements

The author has indicated that he has no affiliation or financial interest in any organisation(s) that may have a direct interest in the subject matter of this article.

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Correspondence to John S. Raglin.

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Raglin, J.S. The Psychology of the Marathoner. Sports Med 37, 404–407 (2007). https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200737040-00034

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Keywords

  • Elite Athlete
  • Distance Runner
  • Sport Psychologist
  • Overload Training
  • Mental Health Model