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Module PPP-3004:
Born to Run: Achieve your Goal

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Frances Garrad-Cole

Overall aims and purpose

*This module is suitable for, and aimed at, students who are not runners, or at least not very experienced runners*

“I am a marathoner” – repeating this phrase to yourself and introducing yourself as such can actually take you one step closer to achieving a personal endurance goal that you never thought possible – running a marathon. The overarching principle for this module is that seemingly unattainable long-term goals can be achieved with the right understanding and application of theory, namely an integration of positive and motivational psychology. This module takes, potentially inexperienced, runners through a specific training programme for running a marathon. The module is based on core psychological theory which is then applied in a very real way to running training and performance. A similar approach has demonstrated success in marathon running: over ten years, David Whitsett and Forrest Dolgener from the University of Northern Iowa have coached almost 200 students through to a successful marathon.

The module comprises one two-hour lecture per week and a three-hour workshop/training session. The lectures will cover content and introduce theories to guide and govern successful goal setting and achievement. The workshops will combine discussion and reflection with group training. Each workshop will also incorporate a 'clinic' where various running issues and themes (e.g. footware, hydration, injury etc) can be explored. There are four training days per week and one of the runs will be undertaken as a group during the workshop time. The purpose of the module is to realise the potential within us all to achieve greater things than we ever imagined possible. It is a real-world application of goal-directed psychology and the power of positive, motivational psychology. Students enrolled on this module will develop a sense of empowerment and recognition of how their own personality (including its limitations) impacts upon their potential for success. Whilst specifically focussing on the challenge of running a marathon, the skills and principles learned can be applied to any situation in life. Fundamentally, this module is about learning to be successful and resilient in setting and achieving goals in a challenging and unpredictable world.

Course content

This course will cover topics from psychological theory and application that are relevant for marathon preparation. Topics will include:

Expectations and running (including personality type, motivation, performance anxiety, goal setting); Nutrition and running (impact of good nutrition on motivation, mental well-being and self-belief); Emotions and running (the ‘wall’, fear, attributional theories of emotion and bodily sensation); Cognition and running (self-talk, mental imagery, locus of control, distraction, mindfulness); Behaviour and running (action-reflection cycle, flow, effort and reinforcement); Resilience and mental toughness (including dealing with set-backs and failures).

There is an expectation that students will be able to run approx 3-5k comfortably before starting the module and therefore this module will not be suitable for students with physical disabilities or ailments that restrict running ability. Each student will also have to self-certify that they are helathy and wel enough to undertake the module, and that they will consult their GP should they feel otherwise, before they undertake this training. Therefore any heart conditions, epilepsy etc would need to be considered in line with the module aims by the GP before a student were to sign up. The aim of the module is to train to run a marathon and students should be prepared to do this before starting the module. It is understood that illness/accidents can occur during the course of a module and, if that were to be the case, the student would need to use the psychological principles taught within the module to adapt their goal and overcome disappointment/change in group dynamic etc.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold D- to D+ - Adequate answers or writing to the question, largely based on lecture material. No integration of theories. - Basic understanding of principles and theories of positive/motivational psychology. - Basic understanding of effective training plans with regard to Psychological principles - Adequate application to own goals and practice. - Adequate understanding of how to resolve set-backs in personal goals


Excellent A- to A* - Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area with clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues. - Deep understanding of principles and theories of positive/motivational psychology and how they apply to running a marathon - Excellent understanding of effective training plans with regard to Psychological principles - In depth understanding of how to deal with set-backs to a personal goal and application of theory to re-evaluation/re-setting goals.
- Clear development of self-efficacy and recognition of how this has come about through application of positive psychological principles - Excellent application of theories to own goals and practice


Good C- to B+ - Reasonably comprehensive coverage of the topic. Well organised and structured writing. Good understanding of the theories and how they apply to training for a marathon. - Good understanding of principles and theories of positive/motivational psychology - Good understanding of effective training plans with regard to Psychological principles - Good application of theories to own goals and practice - Good understanding of how to overcome set-backs to personal goals

Learning outcomes

  1. 2 Analyse the nature and limitations of training plans/goal setting behaviour;

  2. 1 Apply principles of positive & motivational psychology to set goals and understand how to achieve them;

  3. 5 Evaluate progress towards goals, accommodate setbacks and failures, develop resilience to challenges;

  4. 3 Understand the influence of dispositional factors such as personality types/motivational ability in goal-directed behaviour;

  5. 4 Understand the influence of state and performance-related factors such as nutrition, emotion, motivation and effort in goal-directed behaviour;

  6. 6 Apply the theoretical knowledge of the module to an action-reflection cycle to a real-world goal. In this case, running a marathon.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay weekly reflective 'jog' (journal/blog) 50
Written assignment, including essay reflective essay integrating theory/handbook for success 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 145
Practical classes and workshops

We will also hold a two-hour experiential workshop each week plus one hour clinic. The aim of this session will be threefold: 1) to discuss and apply theories learnt during the week’s lecture to one’s own running practice; 2) to practice relevant applied strategies during a group training run; and 3) to reflect on the effectiveness of application of strategies following the run. Reflections on this application of theory to practice will feed into the assessment. workshops will be held in a teaching room.


We will hold a two hour lecture will be held each week for eleven weeks in which relevant course content and theory will be conveyed. Content will be delivered by staff in Psychology, with invited guest lectures from staff in COHABS with relevant expertise. For these sessions we will need a small lecture theatre or teaching room


Transferable skills

  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Engage in effective teamwork for the purpose of collaborating on psychological projects.
  • Be sensitive and react appropriately to contextual and interpersonal psychological factors.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.


Resource implications for students

Students will need to invest in good quality running shoes and running equipment. Students will be expected to enter at least one event during the module and to pay for the entry and travel for this. [Non-financial implications: 1. Students will need to commit to four runs per week (only one of which takes place during class time) 2. Students will need to visit their GP and have confirmation that they have no underlying medical conditions which would compromise their marathon training.]

Reading list

Core text: Whitsett, Dolgener & Kole (1998). The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer. McGraw Hill

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: