Interesting New PhD Project: “The Ultra Ethnography”

“Sport is a powerful vehicle for enriching individual and societal well-being and development. Participation in sport results in improved physical, mental, and social health for individuals, families, and societies.”

The above is a quote from the “Context” part of Ian MacNairn’s (University of Calgary) PhD project that aims to find out how community is built in sport and ultrarunning. It’s always refreshing to find other people who are doing something even remotely similar to what I’m doing, so I was pretty excited to hear about this, even though my own relationship to sport may be a little ambivalent.


Ian MacNairn. Credit: bookstruckerphotography/

I have previously written on doing sports studies here. I my little blog post I also introduced some critical viewpoints on sports, which is important to do in the specific context of my own research. That said, I can definitely attest to sports, especially the sports that I’m doing now, being capable of enriching my life (although on the other hand, being so invested in them can be a pain in the ass, too, especially when things aren’t going well).

Anyway, I was originally informed of the project by a column that Andy-Jones Wilkins wrote on a popular  ultrarunning website in AJW’s Tap Room at iRunFar. It’s understandable that AJW, a successful veteran of the sport, looks at ultrarunning in a very positive light. This is apparent from his column:

“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.”

While that may or may not be one of the side effects of the study, I’m confident that despite such optimistic expectations, it will not focus on painting anything in a positive light if such light happens to be missing but will instead offer an interesting and as unbiased as possible look into the ultrarunning community, warts and all, as well as all the wonderful things it may have to offer.

For more information, the project’s website is here, and the project’s poster here: 14b021_e0b77f0bbb2a4da8aea50b9b1b5a84c9.

I should probably write a blog post at some point, like I have promised, of the ethnographic methodology that I myself plan to use. In the meantime, I encourage all interested parties to participate in the Ultra Ethnography, it’s certainly a worthy project.

Featured image credit (not visible in mobile theme):


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