I’m a Running Researcher: Trish Jackman

This post is part of the I’m a Running Researcher series. See all profiles in this series here.

Who are you?

My name is Dr Trish Jackman and I am a Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Lincoln, UK.

What is your background?

I was awarded a PhD in sport psychology from the University of Lincoln. My PhD research focused on the relationship between mental toughness and psychological states underlying excellent performance. My main research interests in sport and exercise are optimal experiences, such as flow, affect, goal setting, and attentional focus. In addition, I am leading research projects on psychological wellbeing in doctoral students and policing. I provide sport psychology and performance lifestyle support to scholarship athletes at the University of Lincoln.

How long have you been researching running?

My first experiences of researching running was during my PhD, although this was part of a multi-sport study. This experience of research in running, however, fuelled my interest in conducting research in this activity beyond my PhD. My first specific research project in running began in 2020 and I am currently in the data collection and data analysis phase of this project. We are aiming to disseminate the findings of this research in 2021 – watch this space!

How did you get into researching running?

I have always had an interest in understanding optimal experiences in sport and exercise, so running always seemed like a fantastic activity to explore. I am fascinated by the range of reasons people engage in running, right from 5k parkrun activities through to 100+ mile ultramarathon races. Running can have so many physical and psychological benefits for people, so I am passionate about learning more about how we can help people to optimise their experiences when they are running.

What running research have you done?

My first project on running commenced in 2020. The study adopts a qualitative interview approach to explore optimal experiences in running. More specifically, we are exploring the mental strategies that people use during these experiences. We are conducting interviews soon after performances when people have an excellent experience or achieve an excellent performance. We are aiming to disseminate the findings of this research in 2021.

How do you research running?

To date I have mainly used qualitative interviews to explore people’s experiences in running. The interviews I have conducted tend to focus on a specific event that has occurred within a week of an optimal experience. I have found that this research method is really helpful for gaining a detailed insight into people’s experiences when it is relatively fresh in their mind. My interview approach focuses on building a chronological description of a runner’s experience during an event. I always enjoy hearing about how a run unfolds, as no two runs are ever the same.

What is the most significant, important, surprising, interesting, unusual, or favourite finding emerging from your research?

Although we are at an early stage in the project, I am really interested in understanding how runners manage their pace and am always fascinated when experienced runners talk about running on “feel”. Many participants speak about the idea of managing the thin line between optimising their pacing strategy and treading over that line. The ability to manage that thin line is always fascinating to hear about.

Do you run?

I have played team sports for many years, but only took up running “properly” in 2020. I completed my first half-marathon over the summer. Spurred on by my enjoyment of running this year, I have signed up for some ultrarunning events in 2021 and am looking forward to the training process and engaging in this running journey. While I enjoy road running, I am really looking forward to getting onto trails and onto the hills over the winter. Running is really important for my mental and physical health. I really enjoy being in nature and moving my body.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more about my work and musings on Twitter and my staff profile.


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