Perceived exertion influences pacing among ultramarathon runners but post-race mood change is associated with performance expectancy
Objectives. This study investigated whether post-race mood changes among ultramarathon runners are associated with perceived exertion or the discrepancy between their actual and predicted performance times.
Methods. Eight runners completed the Puffer ultramarathon, which is a challenging 73 km mountainous race across Table Mountain National Park in South Africa. Each runner completed a series of profile of mood state questionnaires (POMS) 2 days before the race (baseline), on the morning of the race (pre-race) and immediately after the race (post-race). Ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were measured at 13 points during the race using the Borg 6-20 scale. The accuracy of performance expectations
was measured as the difference between runners’ actual and predicted race times.
Results. Average completion time was 11:31:36±00:26:32 (h :
mm:ss), average running speed was 6.4±2.2 km.hr-1 and average
RPE was 14.1±2.0. Increased POMS confusion was found before the race (33.30.7 v. 37.1±5.2, p=0.014; baseline v. pre-race). Post-race increases in POMS total mood disturbance (TMD) were found (168.3±20 v. 137.5±6.3, p=0.001; post race v. baseline) characterised by decreased vigour (43.3±4.0 v. 33.5±7.0, p=0.008; baseline v. post race), increased confusion (33.3±0.7 v. 38.5±4.8, p=0.006; baseline v. post race) and increased fatigue (37.8±4.8 v. 53.8±7.3, p=0.0003; baseline v. post race). A linear increase in RPE was found during the race (r=0.737, p=0.002).
The magnitude of their post-race mood change (r=-0.704, p=0.026) was not found to be associated with runners’ average RPE but was found to be negatively correlated with accuracy of the performance predictions. A time series analysis indicated that POMS TMD would have taken 142±89 min to recover. Conclusions. The results show that RPE influences the way
ultramarathon runners pace themselves more than performance expectancy but performance expectations have a greater influence on post-race mood. The magnitude of post-race mood change is associated with the extent of discrepancy between runners’ predicted and actual performance. This has implications for designing appropriate goals and pacing strategies for ultraendurance athletes.