Accepted paper:

Unsettling the running body and disrupting the urban recreational run in "GoodGym"


Emily Tupper (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the way in which GoodGym activity "unsettles" the embodied, habituated experience of the urban recreational runner and "disrupts" the practice of the urban recreational run. In so doing, it challenges existing concepts of "achievement" in running.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the movement of bodies in a non-clinical but health-oriented context; that of "GoodGym" activity. GoodGym is a non-profit organisation that combines "getting fit" with "doing good"; running-based exercise with volunteering activities. Running, as a form of exercise, is known to "unsettle" the body, moving it into varying modes of discomfort, and bringing various sensations to the foreground (the cardio-respiratory workings of the heart and lungs, for example). The recreational, urban runner might modify this embodied experience by running planned or negotiated distances, paces, and routes, in order to challenge, cope with and/ or enjoy their running experience. Drawing on data from mobile ethnography and semi-structured interviews, this paper shows that GoodGym activity unsettles the habitual embodied experience of urban recreational running and "disrupts" the practice of the urban recreational run in three distinct ways; through physical engagements with space and place, mobile sociability, and the sensory experience of the body. By unsettling the habitual embodied experience of urban recreational running, GoodGym activity stimulates the body in ways often appreciated by the GoodGym runners. For example, runners described the unpredictability of GoodGym activity "exciting", enjoyed the sociable aspect as a compliment to their other solitary runs, and appreciated the way in which the run was broken up into chunks. These findings challenge existing concepts of "achievement" in running, whereby the goal is often to run faster paces and longer distances, and instead re-model the concept of achievement upon the embodied experience of the runner.

panel P069
Movement, stasis and interoception: unsettling the body [Medical Anthropology Network]