Flow experience, challenge-skill balance & performance in extreme ultramarathon competitions

  • Dissertation paper
  • Writings on Sports Ppsychology, Volume 18
  • Science publisher Dr. Kovac
  • 146 pages, Price: 75,90 EUR

(The book is only available in German.)


Ultramarathon races are booming. Runs beyond the marathon distance, even the extreme variants over several hundred kilometres or difficult routes in areas hostile to life, e.g. in the desert, the rainforest or at high altitude, are recording a steady increase in participants. Respect to this extreme type of endurance competition, outsiders often have to ask themselves what drives athletes to put up with such exertions. What motivates them, although there do not seem to be any important external rewards, but on the contrary, the performance of the activity is even associated with considerable pain, costs and expenses? And what can possibly help them to successfully overcome exhausting challenges during the competition?

One possible answer could be the so-called flow experience, a state in which people are completely absorbed in the activity, merge with it, completely ignore irrelevant things and seem to function effortlessly as if on autopilot. First of all, this book presents a theoretical framework on the basis of which the construct of flow experience can be placed in the context of motivational psychology. This is followed by an overview of the current state of flow theory and research: What exactly is flow? How is flow characterized ? How does flow occur? How can flow be assessed? Which positive, but also negative consequences can flow experience have? What empirical findings are there on flow in sport or running?

According to flow theory, a central prerequisite for the development of flow is the optimal challenge-skill balance. Furthermore, flow is considered to be a highly functional state which, due to its characteristics, should have a performance-enhancing effect. However, the empirical findings in this regard are inconsistent and contradictory. Within the framework of eight extreme ultramarathons on four continents, the central assumption regarding the development of flow is empirically tested. In addition, relationships between flow and performance and satisfaction with performance are analysed. Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of the investigation are discussed and a look into future research and applied perspective is taken.

(The book is only available in German.)


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