The Broad Street Run 2013 and Social Facilitation

I worried that this year’s run would be different. I worried that my time would eclipse my 1:06:22 mark in 2008. This worry stemmed from tracking miles on Nike+. I was concerned because Nike+ informed me that my average training pace was between 7:30 and 8:00 minutes per mile. Even when I pushed myself, I was lucky to maintain a 7:15 pace for an extended period of time. How is it that I finished with my best time of 1:01:30 and a pace of 6:10 per mile? Social facilitation, which is the tendency for people to better when performing simple tasks while in the presence of others, could provide the answer. I’m not saying the Broad Street Run is simple, but the task of running is, plus I had trained diligently. Thus, on Sunday, I was performing a simple and familiar task. Performing a simple task in the presence of others often causes us to do better. This would explain why my race time was so much better versus when I was training by myself. This is not only true for athletic tasks, it can occur when we are at work or doing a hobby. However, when performing a difficult and complex task, the opposite often happens. Think about the last time you had to perform an unfamiliar and complex task in front of others, whether on the field, at school, or at work. Your performance most likely suffered under the bright spotlight, whereas it probably would have been better if you were alone. So the next time you are in the center of attention while doing something unfamiliar and you mess up, cut yourself a break and practice more in the future in anticipation that you will improve over time.

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