I’m a Running Researcher: Emily Tupper

This post is part of the I’m a Running Researcher series. See all profiles in this series here.

Who are you?

Hello, I’m Emily and I am a PhD candidate in the anthropology department at Durham, where I am based in the Physical Activity Lab. I am currently writing up my thesis, which looks at “movement volunteering” programmes. I conducted ethnographic research with groups that combined physical activity (in this case, running, walking, and cycling) with broader charitable aims aimed at bringing people together, moving in and improving public spaces.

What is your background?

My background is in anthropology – I did my undergraduate in social anthropology at the University of St Andrews before applying for an ESRC studentship at Durham University. Whilst at Durham, I have also become involved and interested in health and medical anthropology, medical humanities, and geographies of health.

How long have you been researching running?

Since 2016 when I embarked on my MA project, looking at GoodGym. GoodGym combine running with volunteering activities, and I was fascinated by the concept of using running for some further social or moral purpose.

How did you get into researching running?

It was through GoodGym really, who describe themselves as a community of runners. I was intrigued as to how and why running is “harnessed” in order to do good things. I thought it was interesting how running meshed with volunteering – perhaps due to its simplicity and accessibility.

What running research have you done?

Only the PhD project so far!

How do you research running?

I use ethnographic methods, so I participated in the groups over a long period of time. I also did some mobile go-along interviews as well as sit-down interviews.

What is the most significant, important, surprising, interesting, unusual, or favourite finding emerging from your research?

I really enjoyed hearing about how people used GoodGym to get back into running, or connect with it in a different way. There were loads of great stories about how GoodGym had helped them to do this. I think there is a lot to be said for diversifying and re-imagining fitness practices so that they appeal to a much broader range of people.

Do you run?

I jog…I am very on and off in my engagement with running. While doing fieldwork I really got into it but now I have lost some momentum. This is probably also because Parkrun is not happening at the moment. I miss that feeling of running in a group!

Where can I find out more?

You can read about the Physical Activity Lab here. My ESRC profile is here. You can follow me on Twitter @tipataptoptup and you can find a recently published paper on Goodgym by me and my supervisors here.


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