Ultrarunning and the ideal female body

I found this very interesting article, titled Beyond the Marathon: (De)Construction of Female Ultrarunning Bodies.

As with most scholarly works, it’s both dense and eloquent. In addition, it brings up several interesting points, including, (but not limited to) the following:

  • In a sport such as ultrarunning, the ideal performance body is often defined by an ideal body shape.
  • The authors, however, also hypothesize that ultrarunning may be more amenable than other sports (and other social situations) to allow women to self-determine, i.e. to create a (more) unique identity.

In other words, this article examines an interface between a biological system (the body), a physical system (the demands of the race) and a social system (the female ideal). 

In a future blog post I’ll discuss this article at length, paying special attention to its findings in relation to the mission of my blog.

But for now, I’m curious to know what you think about the article, or about how the biological-physical system and social systems interact in ultrarunning, running, or the sports culture. In other words:

  • How do you think that social dynamics (and identity politics) influence running, sports, and ultrarunning?
  • How do you think that physical systems of running, ultrarunning, and sports as a whole, influence the emergence of particular social dynamics?

UPDATE: For your convenience, here is the abstract: 

This article examines the ways in which high-performance female ultrarunning bodies are created and understood through the discourses of the normative running body, the ideal female body and pain. Using a Foucauldian framework, this paper shows how the ultrarunning body becomes a desired body beyond the marathon and how these same desires produce multiple and complex subjectivities for female ultrarunners. In-depth interviews were conducted with 8 high performance female ultrarunners. Findings suggest that ultrarunning is a sporting space which gives rise to more diverse subjectivities than previously found in distance running literature. Simultaneously, this discourse produces disciplined bodies through the mode of desire and “unquestioned” social norms, paralleling the constructs of extreme sports and (re)producing middle-classness.

 

 

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