Ultrarunning And Community: An Exciting New Project

AJW writes about Ian MacNairn’s PhD project on ultrarunning community.

By on December 11, 2015 | Leave a reply

AJWs TaproomI have written often in this space about the strong sense of community that exists in the ultrarunning culture of which I have been part for 20 years. It is certainly one of the most endearing aspects of our sport and one which is often cited as a truly unique part of what makes running long (and sometimes) in the mountains so special. Therefore, it was with great interest that I learned about a PhD project currently underway.

Ultrarunner Ian MacNairn is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Calgary in Canada and his work is primarily in the field of social and cultural anthropology. In his doctoral project, Ian is specifically examining how community is built through sport and has chosen ultrarunning as the case study for the project. At this time, he is recruiting participants for the project. I have agreed to participate and I am writing to urge others to do so as well.

A series of essential questions will form the foundation of the inquiry. What type of community is formed through sport, generally, and ultrarunning in particular? What kinds of relationships are formed through running? How do ultrarunners contend with challenges in ultrarunning and how do ultrarunners access support within their community?

The study will use ethnographic methods, which involve interviews with participants, observations at ultramarathons and training sessions, and collected artifacts. These artifacts can be in the form of race reports, photographs, and online-accessed materials. Ultimately, all of the primary-source material and artifacts will be collated and included in Ian’s dissertation.

As a 20-year veteran of the sport, I am eager to participate in this project. From my perspective, the sense of community that is nurtured out of the sport of ultrarunning is extraordinary. I think a serious, academic examination of the ultraunning community could serve to dispel myths about the sport, focus attention on something immensely important to all humans, and paint the sport we love so much in a wonderfully positive light.

If you would like to volunteer to participate in this study, and I strongly suggest you do, you can see the instructions contained in the Call for Comments section below the beer review. I hope you will all consider becoming involved.

Bottoms up!

Amy Albu’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is a guest beer review from Virginia ultrarunner and current Beast Series (a series of six Virginia ultramarathons) leader Amy Albu. I was visiting her at her place in Arlington, Virginia last month and learned that she lives directly above a full-blown brewery, Sehkraft Brewing. It is truly an ultrarunner’s dream home. Needless to say, Amy spends a fair amount of time down there in the brewery after her runs and earlier this week had the opportunity to have a limited edition Three Notch’d/Sehkraft Collaboration Pumpkin IPA. Here is her take on it:

“This beer is the perfect union of a hoppy IPA and a slightly sweet pumpkin ale. It’s not overwhelmingly pumpkiny (made that word up) and it’s one of those rare specialty ales that you could have more than one of and not go into overload. I gotta’ say, hops and pumpkin, two of my favorite things combined into one beer. What could be better?”

Call for Comments

To participate in the study, please contact:
Ian MacNairn, M.A.
Faculty of Arts, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
University of Calgary
1 (403) 689-5745
Amy Albu drinking Three Notch'd:Sehkraft Collaboration Pumpkin IPA

Amy Albu drinking Three Notch’d/Sehkraft Collaboration Pumpkin IPA. Photo courtesy of AJW.

Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.