"That is why I gave in to age my competitive ability but not my soul!" : a spiritual journey in endurance running
In this article, I explore the spiritual dimensions of running. I draw on theological and existential perspectives, athletic career research as well as post-sport ideologies to construct a multi-voiced representation of the spiritual meanings of endurance running current in Finnish running culture(s). Through narrative, analysis, reflexivity, interpretation and theorizing this study aimed to gain a deeper understanding of how distance runners negotiate dominant discourses on sport and exercise in the process of making running meaningful to them. In the analysis I examined the Finnish runner’s magazine Juoksija for the years 2001-2010. Over this time span studied, I found a variety of data discussing the spiritual dimension of running, including editorials, interviews, columns and research-based popular articles. From these sources I selected 34 columns written by 17 different authors for an in-depth discourse analysis. In exploring the content of the magazine over the decade it became apparent that the diversity of authors and perspectives had increased, which partially reflected the wider changes that had occurred in Finnish runner culture over this time span. The research results suggest that existential aspects of running underlie, but remain dormant, in the dominant performance discourse of competitive sports. These spiritual and/or existential dimensions become especially meaningful, however, when transitioning from elite level sports. I suggest that finding the existential spirituality of running can be a protective element in athletic retirement, enabling the runner to sustain their athletic identity as a central life-narrative even after the transition. ...
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