The audience effect

A study quoted in the *book I’m reading states that athletes who have an audience that cheers them are more likely to exceed performance expectations.  Run faster.  Lift heavier.  Get PBs.  Do better than they thought possible.  It also talks about the home court advantage.  In a nut shell we do better when we are on show particularly in front of people we know.  We adjust our behaviour so that we earn more positive attention (page 219).

Yesterday was a special event in the Launceston Running Club 2016 calendar.  It was a memorial run paying tribute to a much respected and loved Club member who passed away last year.  He played a huge role in the running careers of many local runners, coaching some to become Australian champions.  It was a 5km run on a running track.


At first Pauly and I thought the event started and finished at the track.  But no.  It was 12.5 laps of a proper running track.  You know the ones like they have in the Olympics?  Real sporty stuff for real runners with a synthetic spongy type material to run on.  I was immediately transported back to bloomer-wearing high school sports days.  The feelings of inadequacy at being made to line up and run against girls who finished races before I’d even taken a few steps flooded through me.

It wasn’t a good feeling.  I toyed with the idea of not participating.

A big deep breath in and a smile plastered back on my face…  So what if the Club gazelles and antelopes have to plod around an armadillo? I thought to myself.  I don’t mind any other time and neither do they.  We are all members of a wonderful running club with the motto of The Club where you can run for fun.  So let’s have fun.  12.5 dizzy laps of roundness.  Bring it on!

With a handicap of 9:45 I was about 10th runner out of the field of 44 to start.  And off I went. Around and around and around.  I had my GPS on 1km laps so in order to keep track I had to count.

It was a strange feeling to be running and lapping a few runners and constantly being lapped by the runners who obviously drank rocket fuel for breakfast.  The fastest runner took 16:20.2 to cover those 12.5 laps.  One of the real champions was burning past me faster on his warm up lap than I was running the event.  On what I thought was my 11th lap I asked the stewards if I was right, I was.  I let go the throttle and ran as fast as I could. 

St Leonards

There were people everywhere.  Whereas we normally start and run a course where we can be on our own for ages – eventually faster runners behind zoom past once but that’s all.  No audience other than sheep and cows maybe.  This event was all about constant passing and being passed.  We were all on show all the time.  Supporters were there watching.  We had an audience.

Despite running a marathon less than a week ago I recorded a 5km PB and ran in the 24s for the second time in my life.  Was it the audience effect?  It could well have been something to do with it.  My little experience of track running with an audience would attest to the findings of the study as quoted by *Matt Fitzgerald in How Bad Do You Want It?

laps St Leonards


This book is a winner for me.  There’s story after story of athletes who have gone beyond their expectations thanks to mental toughness (or getting their attitudes right).  The author writes gripping tales of races and real life people working at making their dreams come true.  Of loss, disappointment and heartbreak as well as hard work, victory and triumph over troubles.  The book is worth reading for the stories alone.

Audience effect?  It has merit.  Melbourne Marathon and Gold Coast Marathon have so far been my best marathons.  Best times and best running.  Both had crowds lining the course in most places.  Ross Marathon is going to be quite different.  It is a small field.  2015 there were 47 men and 14 women.  I’m more than likely to come in last place.  The course is four laps and is quiet and lonely in many places.  I will need every ounce of mental toughness to keep on running.  This is a challenge that I’m looking forward to.  Crossing the finish line of Ross Marathon will be marathon number 5, will see the Unsporty Woman holding medals for the only two road marathons in our beloved state of Tasmania AND be one step closer to being ready to take on Bruny Island Ultra in December.  Last place?  I rock last place. Bring it on!

Happy running 🙂

Saturday morning saw Pauly and I get to Launceston parkrun for the first time in a few weeks.  It is just lovely to have Janette back running after working on getting some niggly bits better.  Just look at her fly.  She is easing back into running with walk/running and together we got around those 5kms in 33:09 by my GPS.  It was fun.


22 thoughts on “The audience effect

  1. Annie I laughed so much at the people who drank rocket fuel for breakfast. Congrats on the PB! I haven’t read the book but my personal anecdotal experience would definitely agree. I wonder if cheering on the other side other the world counts? 🙂

    • I’m sure they do drink rocket fuel Sue, they run so fast. How they didn’t get dizzy I don’t know. Cheering from the other side of the world absolutely counts! I hear those cheers loud and clear 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Amazing time Annie, with great even splits, those marathons have really helped your speed. As for running 5k on a track, to me that is hardcore stuff, well done

  3. I love the audience effect. It might be a sister to the buddy effect – where a jogging buddy can make the miles fly by.

  4. Congratulations on the PB. I downloaded a sample of that book about a week ago and read it but was in two minds whether to buy it. I think I just might now. Thank you.

    • I’ve found it really good Heather. I’ve got so much from it that I can apply to my own running. I’m not chasing trophies or wins or anything like that but I feel the strategies in the book are going to help me meet my goals.

  5. I just think you rock regardless! Audience or no audience… Always up for trying something new… Smashing it… Go AnnieBabes!!!! Luv ya!!! Xxx

  6. I’ve put the book on hold at the library and hope it comes soon! I was blown away by the support from the crowd and am sure it helped to push me along, it’s something we keep commenting on. I’ll be looking for it for every race now

    • I hope you enjoy it as much as I have Jo. And get as much from it. I’ve loved your posts on the marathon. I’ve tried to leave comments but don’t seem to know how to make them post! Very well done on your first marathon. You are amazing, have loved the photos.

  7. Fantastic time Annie! I loved your bloomer wearing memory from school days too. I wish you all the best fro your upcoming events. Inspirational stuff!

  8. I can really see how the audience effect would really help a person reach better times. Often near finish lines where the crowds are their cheering helps pull a bit more out of me when there is nothing left in the tank! 🙂

  9. I bought the book after you first mentioned it – after all, if one of the bloggers I most admire and respect in terms of mental attitude as well as achievements reckons it’s worth a read, that’s good enough for me – and what a great read it is. Thanks for everything you share with us out here; you’re certainly an inspiration to me. 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the book! Thank you Cathy for your wonderful comment. I’m really happy to hear that my ramblings are encouraging you. Your coment has absolutely made my day xxx

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