I’m a Running Researcher: Nur Kurtoğlu-Hooton

Celebrating my Grand Slam after completing Peddars’ Way Ultra 48 miles, Norfolk 100k and King’s Forest 50k (organised by Positive Steps Events) (Photo credit: Tim Hooton)

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 Nur Kurtoğlu-Hooton and I’m a Lecturer in English language at Aston University in Birmingham. UK. I teach linguistics, applied linguistics as well as language teaching methodology courses.

What is your background?

I have a BA in English language and literature from Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey and MSc in TESP (Teaching English for Specific Purposes) and PhD in Applied Linguistics, both from Aston University.

How long have you been researching running?

Since 2018. My previous research was mainly in teacher education, in particular exploring discourses of feedback.

How did you get into researching running?

There was a point in my life which lasted almost two years when I experienced burnout in my professional life. I was running quite regularly and was aware that it was helping me to some extent but I still felt that my work consumed me. I needed a new passion to focus on. One day as I was preparing to go out for a run, a family member teased me with their remark “Do you realise you have two identities? You’re an academic and a runner!” These words stayed with me during my run and, more importantly, sowed the seeds for a new direction. I decided that day that I would research runners’ lived experiences and identity through the discourses they use as they interact with another and write a book about it.

What running research have you done?

I completed two research projects exploring discourses of runners on Facebook and Instagram. I explored the ways in which a particular running community on Facebook (an ultrarunning group) exhibits characteristics of a Community of Practice, what linguistic features are evident in the way members interact with one another and what relational strategies they use during interaction. When researching the Instrarunning community I explored the kind of communicative acts runners perform as they share their lives and running journeys online through their blogs (or, Instarunnerblogs as I call them), the discursive strategies the runners use as they interact with their followers and how they construct and enact identities. I focused on six case studies to explore runners’ lived experiences. One case study, for example, demonstrates how a runner’s running trajectory and the linguistic choices they make in writing their trajectory demonstrates running motivation. I also conducted an autoethnographic study to gain insight into my own running identity (@nur_therunnur) and provide empirical evidence to share my findings.

How do you research running?

In my research I use digital ethnography, existential phenomenology and interpretative phenomenological analysis. I explore the lived experience of runners through my own lived experience; in other words, as an embodied researcher. I take a reflexive approach in the process to make the familiar strange. Language inevitably plays a vital role in how people interact with one another. Focusing on runners’ discourse and exploring the linguistic choices they make when they communicate online, help me explore running communities and runners’ lived experiences.  

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

Runners use relational strategies to engage their followers, break down stigmas, drive change and invite their followers to social action. With their transformation stories runners share their stories with a view to empowering others, showing that it can be done. For example, the hashtag #transformationtuesday is a trope that shares a common marker for presenting how one’s body has transformed over a period. It provides visual impact through photos runners share. Yet the accompanying text can be as, if not more, significant due to the power of words used in instarunnerblogs.  Another significant trope that emerged in the research quite prominently was that of ‘keeping it real’ (in other words ‘honesty posts’ as referred to by runners themselves), helping runners to subvert, for example, the stigma around mental health and talk about it openly.

Do you run?

Yes. I love running and always wish I could devote most of my time to it! I see running as a reward. In 2015 I ran my first 10k and my first half marathon and completed my first marathon in 2016. Soon afterwards an ultrarunner friend persuaded me to run longer distances and I found myself taking part in my first ultra (30 miles/50k) in 2017. Since then I have completed several other ultras including NDW50 (North Downs Way 50 mile race organised by Centurion Running) and Norfolk 100k (organised by Positive Steps Events). I DNFed (was unable to complete – hence Did Not Finish) two ultra races that I started. I have also had to deal with injury. Whatever the outcome, I enjoy taking part in races, especially long distance trail events. I love how they help push my boundaries and see what I may be capable of achieving.  I love being in nature, discovering trails and enjoying beautiful landscapes.

Where can I find out more?

You can contact me via: n.hooton@aston.ac.uk or my Twitter account @UnicornNotes

Details of my new book:

Language, Identity Online and Running  https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-81831-9


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