And…even more running stories

I’m struggling to find running stories that counter the dominant narrative of the “My Running Story.” I’ve been talking about this “master narrative” for the past few posts.

Here’s a brief description of the “my running story” narrative:

It has a beginning (I was never a runner), middle (I found a love for running and got fast) and end (I struggled with injury or motivation but have triumphed).

It often includes a list of races/personal best times.

It is usually centered on signing up for and running/competing in races–often marathons.

It is frequently found on blogs with running/training tips + corporate sponsorships + product reviews. 

In many ways, this narrative resonates for me. I think a lot about my times. I like running in races. I frequently understand my own story as about “someone who never thought that they could run” and then learned to love it. But, this narrative is not the only way that I experience/understand myself as a runner. I’m interested in reading other stories about running, stories that offer different perspectives on why and how we run.

I’m having some trouble finding these counter narratives. I’m sure that they exist, they just don’t come up as easily in my google searches. I’ll keep looking. For now, here are two counter stories:

Running with the Pack

by Mark Rowlands, a philosopher. I just recalled this from the library. In an interview with Runner’s World, Rowlands encourages us to think about the  intrinsic (running for running’s sake) value of running instead of just the  instrumental (running for achieving goals, races, losing weight) value.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

by Haruki Murakami, a fiction writer. Shortly after starting to run in 2011, I bought this audiobook. I frequently listened to it as I struggled to work up to a 5k distance. Now, after combining iTunes accounts with my husband, I can’t seem to find it. I’d like to listen to it again and see how my perspective has changed. I wonder, should I buy the book again?

The Runners, a short documentary

A few minutes ago, I randomly remembered this great documentary that I watched over a year ago: The Runners. Here’s a brief description:

Pounding the tarmac through the seasons, a band of runners are brazenly challenged with intimate questions as they pace their routes. Liberated from responsibilities, their guards drop dramatically, releasing funny and brutally frank confessions, and weaving a powerful narrative behind the anonymous masses.

Sheffield Documentary Festival

I’d like to write more about it, but I need to pick my daughter up from school in 15 minutes. For now, I’ll just post it.

Related Link:

The Runners: why we interviewed people jogging

not just a single story

In my preliminary research on “my running story” (which was hurriedly done and involved googling “my running story” and clicking through only about 2 or 3 pages), I archived a short list of narratives by runners about their experiences racing, training and finding a passion for running. As I began reading through these stories yesterday, I was struck by the similarities between many of them:

  • They usually start, “I was never an athlete” or “I always hated running”.
  • They often focus on running times and include PRs (or PBs).
  • They frequently describe a setback or two, usually involving an injury, but end with a triumphant return to running or a readjustment of expectations.
  • And, they are all white women (except one white man).

This morning, I decided to do a little more research. Instead of focusing just on “my running story,” I searched for running and blogging. Quite quickly, I found Black Girls Run!

Here’s their mission and vision:

Mission: The mission of Black Girls RUN! is to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority.

Vision: We aspire to take a comprehensive and creative approach to improve the health statistics of women of color.

Black Girls Run!

Then I found an article about the Kwe Pack, a group of women runners who live on the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation: They Run: Kwe Pac, Fond du Lac Reservation, Minnesota. This brief article offers excerpts from Kwe Pack members and their experiences running, including:

I have been running for years. My foster parents put me in track when I was in the 7th grade and I ran until throughout high school. I returned to running in my twenties because I was losing a battle with severe depression and an eating disorder.

Even though I have been running for years before running with the Kwe Pack, I wouldn’t be the person or runner that I am without their support and friendship. I love this group and love that it is growing. I enjoy and own my position in this group as one of the most experienced runners and I provide the group with tips and information on fuel, hydration, gear, training, racing and weather.

Before running with this group I did 5k’s, half marathons (both road and trail). From the friendship and support of this group I completed my first marathon in 2012 and completed my first Ultra marathon 50k in October 2014. I have my most aggressive race schedule in 2015, which consists of Superior 25k, Ragnar-Chicago, Grandma’s Marathon, Gene Curnow Trail Marathon, Superior 50, Twin Cities Marathon and Wild Duluth 50K.

Janelle Zuech

Now, both of these stories center on groups of runners and not just individuals, so maybe I shouldn’t attempt to compare them to the “my running story” stories. But I want to put all these stories next to each other to see a wider range of ways in which runners express their passion for running. And I want to keep looking for more narratives about women running.

More Running Stories

Yesterday I discovered a new narrative form (or genre/sub-genre?): my running story. I’m fascinated by how many different people have posted these stories on blogs, tracing their journey as runners, and how many similarities these stories share. There’s a formula to this type of narrative that frequently begins, “I was never an athlete/runner growing up” and ends, either triumphantly (a PR at a big race) or with hopeful determination (the will/desire to run again after injury). Usually I don’t like formulas, but I’m finding “my running stories” to be enjoyable and stimulating to read.

These stories make me curious. And they make me want to research and analyze how people tell their running stories online. What forms do these stories take? Why do people tell them? What sort of “truth” is being expressed, “authentic self” being performed? I’m thinking that part of my “marking the occasion” of my anniversary should involve this research; it seems fitting to remember/practice my academic-intellectual self.

My Running Stories: a preliminary list

sidenote: In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I found out about the genre though an offhand reference in Running to the Kitchen’s “My Running Story.” I was wrong; it was in a story by Loving on the Run. She writes:

This past weekend I was doing my normal blog reading, and came across Michael’s post about his running story. As I was sitting there reading I realized that I don’t think I have ever really shared my running story.

Loving on the Run

In addition to reading/analyzing “My Running Stories,” I also want to look at other ways in which runners tell their running stories and express their running selves online like, the Running Manifesto.

Running Manifestos

Other Sources on Running and Writing

Academic Articles

Running Stories

As I continue to think about my upcoming running anniversary (4 years! on June 2nd), I’m archiving interesting running stories/sources. Here are a few more:

Running Toward Boylston: 8 Runners Take on the 2014 Boston Marathon
Tumblr, NPR

I haven’t had a chance to really look through this Tumblr blog, but I like the idea of a collaborative project with more than one runner. I don’t have time to do anything like this for my current project, but it’s something to think about…

My Running Story
Blog Narrative, Running to the Kitchen

I liked reading this narrative. Somewhere on the blog (which I read last week but can’t find now), she mentions that she’s never written her version of the “my running story.” This statement made me curious: Writing a “my running story” is a genre/story form? Yep. I googled it and found a bunch of versions. I think this might be the way I mark the occasion! But, how to write it and what to include? I’ll think about it some more…