This post is part of the I’m a Running Researcher series. See all profiles in this series here.
Who are you?
Hello all – I’m Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, a prof in Sociology & Physical Culture in the School of Sport & Exercise Science at the University of Lincoln, UK, where I am also Director of the Health Advancement Research Team (HART).
What is your background?
I was a ‘mature’ student back in the day (1980s) when I gave up a full-time job at Lancaster University to take a BA degree, first at the University of Swansea, and then transferring in my second year to do sociology at the University of Warwick. After graduating, I couldn’t afford to do a PhD and so returned to working as an administrator in universities. I eventually made the transition to an academic post in my early 40s, taking up a contract researcher position at the University of Gloucestershire. A few years later, I joined the University of Exeter to work in the excellent Qualitative Research Unit (sadly now long gone). I’ve researched a wide gamut of different areas (often the case in contract research) before beginning to develop my own take on sociological phenomenology/phenomenological sociology and physical cultures.
How long have you been researching running?
It all started back in the 1990s, so unbelievably, nearly 30 years ago!
How did you get into researching running?
Although I had engaged in desk research on running, I commenced empirical research on distance running when I and my excellent (running)partner at the time, John Hockey, suffered long-term running injuries and decided to start an autoethnographic research project on the topic. We are both qualitative sociologists and ethnographers, so decided to turn our sociological attention to ‘injury time’ and the impact upon our identities.
What running research have you done?
Where to start… in addition to the autoethnographic project mentioned above, I’ve also undertaken other automethodological studies on running with John, and with colleagues based in the UK and internationally. The sensory aspects of running and other sports/physical cultures have been a long-standing interest, including the role of ‘lived temperature’ in distance running, and engagement in ‘weather work’ and the development of ‘weather wisdom’. Most recently, I’ve been very interested in studying ‘endurance work’ not just in distance running, but also comparing endurance in competitive swimming (with colleagues, Dr Gareth McNarry and Dr Adam Evans) and in high-altitude mountaineering. Currently, a running colleague at Lincoln, Dr Trish Jackman, has invited me to join her in a psychology-sociology (always an interesting nexus) project on experiences of flow and clutch in running.
How do you research running?
Qualitative (and also phenomenological) research has always been my preferred mode, and I’ve drawn on auto/ethnographic participant observation using fieldnotes, photography and voice-recordings; I have also used interviews, including run-along and walk-along interviews, autophenomenography, and creative methods.
What is the most significant, important, surprising, interesting, unusual, or favourite finding emerging from your research?
A very difficult question, because so many findings have fascinated me. One finding that is particularly apposite at present, is the role of running in helping cope with existential challenges, such as bereavement. For me, and I know for others too, the feeling of being part of the wider world, connected to all things (as Merleau-Ponty tells us with his notion of the ‘chiasm’) is poignant, powerful and of great comfort.
Do you run?
Yes, I was a late starter in taking up running as I suffered from asthma as a child and could never run more than 100 m (yards in those days) before collapsing breathless. I started running in my mid-20s when a colleague, John Hockey, encouraged me to try running around our University campus and gradually build up the distance. From then, I was hooked. Work demands meant I never really had time to train properly for races, but I’ve used running for about 35 years to counteract some of the stresses and excesses of work (and life). I’ve always been an elemental, outdoors person and look forward every day to escaping the office confines to head out on to our local tracks and fields.
Where can I find out more?
You can follow and find out more about my research on my ResearchGate Sociology of Running page, as well as on Grow Kudos and ORCID.