Qualitative Research in Psychology: Autoethnography, Sport & Identity

Running, Being, and Beijing—An Existential Exploration of a Runner Identity

DOI: 10.1080/14780887.2013.810796
LINK: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14780887.2013.810796

Noora Johanna Ronkainena*Marlen Elliot Harrisonb & Tatiana V. Rybaa


In this research, we explore the negotiation of a conflicted runner identity in a Finnish runner’s short-term migration to Beijing, China. We examine the historical and cultural construction of the runner identity and discuss the current discourses that constitute the modern runner subjectivities. From there, we continue with a Heideggerian existential-phenomenological analysis of the “boundary situation” when the project of competitive running is challenged due to environmental and cultural barriers in the migration. Our empirical inquiry is based on the first author’s autoethnographic account, written during and shortly after her 10-week stay in Beijing in March–June 2011. Two main themes, the loss of control and isolation, are examined, and an existential interpretation is paired with insight from Buddhist psychology. Finally, we conclude with implications for future research in sport and migration studies as well as practical considerations for the use of autoethnography in psychological research and practice.