Over the last forty years, running has grown from a niche sport for a relative handful of committed club athletes into one of the Western world’s most popular and ubiquitous pastimes.
This rapid growth raises some important questions: What kinds of people have been drawn to running in such numbers? Why do they invest their time and money in the sport? And what does running’s popularity tell us about ourselves and the society we live in today?
My book, Running, Meaning and Identity addresses these questions, considering running simultaneously as a technique of self-cultivation, a contested and congested social field in which forms of capital and status are at stake, and an important source of meaning and identity for millions of people across the world.
It also considers the great paradox of running: That despite its low cost of entry and inclusive ethos, the sport remains riven by inequalities. Gender, class, age and ethnicity all influence whether, how, and how successfully different groups participate in the sport. This book presents explanations for how these inequalities have emerged, how they are experienced and sustained, and how they are implicated in the reproduction of social structure, privilege and the search for distinction within – as well as far beyond – running itself.