Last night I had the opportunity to talk at the last of four conferences called Running Dialogues. This was a series of seminars designed to facilitate discussions around running between academics, practicioners (runners) and anyone else interested in running as an activity from an intellectual point of view. The website describes the aims:
Running Dialogues is a new free seminar series starting in 2015 that seeks to celebrate and investigate running by bringing together for discussion all of those interested in ideas about running. The series will use academic research into running as a starting point for conversations between academics, those in the running sector, and runners themselves. The seminars are open to anyone with an interest in running, and will be lively and accessible, with lots of time for audience discussion and participation.
The last seminar in the series was entitled Running, Space and Place and the focus for the evening would be on exploring the spaces and places of running and the unique ways in which runners inhabit the world. The brief to the speakers was to discuss runners’ routes, their choice of location, how they interact with the world and engage with places, and why these are important to understand.
There were five of us speaking, all looking at different aspects of the subject, including:
- How women inhabit spaces as runners and how their fears often limit their ability to run
- How urban running can be seen as a ‘App’ which facilitates the use of the urban environment by runners
- The differences between indoor and outdoor runner
I chose to look at how story-telling allows runners to transport others and be transported to places that they would be unlikely to visit. Tracing a line of story telling from ancient cave paintings to social media, I argued that runners are constantly creating stories that are rooted in place – the places that they run – but distributed far and wide.
The final speaker of the night was Boff Whalley, author of Run Wild and, amongst many other things, a contributor to Like the Wind magazine. His talk focused on the ways that runners refuse to be restricted and how they can explore places better when they are not hemmed in to race routes.
Thanks go to Simon Cook, a geographer and runner based at Royal Holloway, University of London and Kate Kennedy, a psychologist and a runner based at the University of Surrey, who organised the seminar series and who invited me along to speak.
I am assured that there will be more from Running Dialogues and as soon as we have news to pass on we will do that.