What We Think About When We Run
The (notably tiny) group of runners spent most of their time thinking about pace and distance—translated cynically, about how hard it was to move at their desired speed (“Come on, keep the stride going, bro”) and about how soon they could stop (“Come on, you have enough energy for a mile and a half”). But, after that, the runners mostly thought about how miserable it was to run. “While all the participants had periods during their run where they appeared to be comfortable and thinking about other things,” the researchers wrote, “pain and discomfort were never far from their thoughts.” Feet went numb, stomachs ached, lungs heaved, exhaustion loomed, hills hurt, heat sapped, vomit threatened; all told, fully a third of runners’ thoughts concerned the downsides of running. The remaining thoughts pertained to the runners’ immediate environment, which the researchers further subdivided: runners had mostly pleasant thoughts about terrain and wildlife, and mostly unpleasant thoughts about weather, traffic, and the other people around them.