*News and an Invitation*
After the excitement of announcing the run-commuting scheme I am involved with at the University of Manchester last week, I have yet more announcements this week. Along with colleagues from Surrey and Kent, I am heading up a team establishing an interdisciplinary, public and free seminar series around running. The news came through last Monday and our ideas have been formulating very quickly since then. Whilst the exact details are still very much to be confirmed, I can provide an overview of what it is we are doing and why it is we are doing it.
In academia, running has generally been the studied by those in the sport and life sciences. This work is often concerned with science of performance improvement, injury reduction and understanding the physiology of the running body. Running, however, is so much more than just a sport. Running is an inclusive social practice that significantly animates the everyday lives of millions. It is a simple, accessible and low cost activity that can involve socioeconomically and culturally diverse swathes of society, improving health and wellbeing, and engaging communities both locally and across society. It alleviates the sedentariness of modern life and acts as a way of caring for the body and self; as a form of self-expression and identification; as a focus for different socialities; and a mode of engaging and being in the world. Parkrun is a case in point – it involves over 50,000 participants across the UK each weekend, including 5,000 volunteers and 7,000 first-time joiners across over 200 green space venues.
The social and cultural aspects of running are just beginning to be studied by academics, and a growing body of work is emerging from right across the social sciences, arts and humanities. This work provides critical new understandings into the practice of running that is of immense value to those involved in the planning, encouragement and promotion of running. Such perspectives could generate new insights for policy agendas including public health promotion, social wellbeing, sustainable travel and urban planning. The work is also of immense value to runners themselves, offering new perspectives and ways to understand a practice they already know so well. We therefore applied for funding to set up this seminar series that will not only bring researchers from diverse background into contact with one another, but also to connect the researchers with those interested in running and the possibilities it presents: governing bodies, health organisations, sport kit companies, activists, charities, running networks, journalists, bloggers, authors and runners themselves.
We will have 4 seminars in total and each seminar will be based on a theme central to the practice of running but with a broader academic and public resonance as well. We will be inviting three to four speakers along to each seminar, from a great diversity of arenas, as well as an open invite for anybody interested in running to come along to discuss and engage with us. These should be really fun and informative events.
So the provisional dates for your diary.
- 9th March – Evening
- 13th April – Lunchtime
- 11th May – Evening
- 8th June – Lunchtime
All are going to be held at the Roxy Bar & Screen
, 128-132 Borough High Street, London SE1 1LB. This is a really great informal venue where drinks are available through the seminar.
We will be launching a website for the seminar series in due course and there will be much more information forthcoming shortly about these very exciting events. We have received funding from the ESRC for these seminars so many thanks to them. I am working on this project with Katy Kennedy
, a psychology PhD student at Surrey researching the emotions of running, and Vybarr Cregan-Reid
, a senior lecturer in English at Kent who is better known as psychojographer
and is currently writing a book on running for Ebury Press (Random House) – Footnotes: a study of running, meaning and modern life.
So please come along and join us, bring your family, bring your friends, bring your colleagues and keep an eye on the website for more details shortly!