‘It has to hurt’: A phenomenological analysis of elite runners´ experiences in handling non-injuring running-related pain

Kasper Bluhm*, Susanne Ravn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Running can be a painful endeavour. In this article, we focus on four elite middle-distance runners’ experience of non-injuring running-related pain, with the aim of better understanding how their handling of pain is a part of their expertise as elite athletes competing on an international level. The article employs phenomenological clarifications of bodily self-consciousness and pain in the analysis of an ethnographic fieldwork carried out during four months in a Danish elite middle-distance training group. The first author’s background in competitive running enabled him to draw on his own ‘insider’ experiences as a runner to perform participant-observations and facilitate rich descriptions in both formal and informal interviews. The analysis indicates that a large part of the runners’ training and racing relied on three overarching ways of handling pain. The runners possess a familiarity in dealing with the ‘acidic’ pain experienced during short intervals and races, they ‘shuffle’ with pain in order to enhance their performance, and they persistently ascribe context-dependant meaning to the experienced pain of running. Importantly, the runners continuously draw on this nuanced familiarity of their pained runner´s bodies while practicing and competing. We suggest that these ways of handling running-related pain can be understood as integral to their expertise as elite runners.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Volume14
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)216-231
ISSN2159-676X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • bodily self-consciousness
  • ethnographic fieldwork
  • expertise
  • pain
  • phenomenology
  • Running

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