In the first of two articles Kirsty Reade speaks to Lloyd Emeka, who has been part of the Fast Running Performance Project since the start. 

An interest in psychology, combined with a love of running, led Lloyd Emeka to embark on an MSc in Applied Sport Psychology at St Mary’s University.

Emeka’s personal experiences and his desire to help others achieve growth have driven him to explore some interesting fields in sport psychology. This is the first of two articles showing a window into some aspects of Sports Psychology.

“I started running in 2014 and love all aspects of the sport – the training, race competitions, camaraderie and the spirit of community that never ceases to amaze me.” And Lloyd’s interest in psychology was something that had been building for many years, until circumstances led him to pursue it further. 

“With reflection, my interest in psychology was sparked by studying consumer behaviour during my MSc Marketing degree nearly twenty years ago.  It was a fascinating subject area and I was fortunate enough to continue applying various aspects of psychology during my marketing communications career. 

Changing direction

However, in recent years and also through experiencing a major life-changing event, I realised that I wanted to take my career in a different direction. Combining my love for sport with psychology seemed like a natural pathway to pursue and so far it has been a great experience.”

Lloyd is a member of Clapham Chasers Running & Triathlon club in South West London and part of the Fast Running Performance Project. His consistent training and hard work has paid off, shown by him hitting his key goals for the 5k, 10k half marathon and marathon over the last few years.

This structured approach to his running has also benefited his work and research.

As an athlete Lloyd feels “marathon running, as we all know, requires a huge amount of structure and discipline during the training cycle in the lead up to the target race.

As someone who is simultaneously juggling being self-employed and studying for a master’s degree, having the structure and self-discipline derived from marathon training has helped to improve my ability to effectively manage my time and resources.” 

Learning to improve his own mindset

Likewise, his research has also helped to improve his own running.

“Having the opportunity to study the psychological aspects of running in-depth has enhanced my running on a personal level through application of various skills and approaches. I have also recently been providing psychological support to junior athletes, which has been really rewarding and a fantastic learning experience.”

One of Lloyd’s particular areas of interest in sport psychology is post-traumatic growth.

“Post-traumatic growth is a relatively new theory that has emerged within the context of sport but actually you can trace its origins back to humanist theoreticians such as Viktor Frankl and Abraham Maslow, who demonstrated that it was possible for individuals to experience personal development and growth following the aftermath of a traumatic event.”

Adversity in running and life can come in many forms. Photo: Stephen Lee

Growth through adversity

Lloyd tells us that post-traumatic growth has traditionally been studied through the lens of sports injury. But, as he says, “there are many forms of adversity that runners might have experienced during their lives.” Lloyd is keen to look at the ways this can impact both life and running. 

“Some of the key findings from post-traumatic growth theory and research evidence suggest that athletes can find new meaning and purpose in their life, develop increased levels of empathy, form closer relationships and display greater levels of resilience.”

“These findings can also be applied within the context of running – experiencing adversity can enable runners to enhance their sense of perspective when a training session or race competition doesn’t quite go to plan but equally it can provide a runner with the resilience to push through stages of training or a race when they might be struggling physiologically.”

Focusing on the bigger picture

As Lloyd has found from his own experience in running, “it is a very humbling sport.  You can have a brilliant training session or race where everything just happens easily and you are literally in a flow state. 

In contrast, you have days where you know almost immediately that you are going to find the training session or race a struggle.  The learning that I have applied within this context is the importance of remaining focused on the big picture.

Having a disastrous training session or race doesn’t mean that you are no longer on track to achieve your goal.  I will always aim to learn from a negative experience and move on quickly.”

Photo: Provided by athlete

We don’t always need to tough it out

Having touched on the very topical area of resilience and its importance in running and in life, Lloyd emphasises that it isn’t something that needs to be displayed at all times.

“Resilience is an important skill to develop and nurture and can certainly help us to cope in challenging times such as what we are experiencing currently. However, it is also important for all runners to feel that they don’t need to demonstrate examples of resilience all the time. 

Being self-aware of less positive thoughts and feelings and sharing that with people in your support network does not make someone a less resilient person.”

For more information on coaching within the Fast Running Performance Project click here

Are you a fan of Fast Running? Then please support us and become a patreon. For as little as the price of a monthly magazine you can support Fast Running – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.