Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Endurance Sport seminar

It's hard to believe that my ESRC grant for the Channel swimming project has only two weeks left to run. For two and a half years, I swum, travelled, supported, chatted and generally ambled about the swimming world learning about what it means, and what it involves, to become a Channel swimmer - socially, culturally, bodily. It really has been an enormous amount of fun, plus I'm hoping to see some publications and other outputs coming out over the next year. I've even made a tentative start on the book - at the moment, I'm toying with calling it "The Long Swim" after the blog, but I'm not sure. All ideas welcome.

Anyway...the final flurry of the project was an end-of-project one-day seminar on Endurance Sport. There are more details about the programme for the day on the project website, and much more will be going up there over the next week - videos of the presentations, and some great drawings from the day, courtesy of 'drawnalist' Matt Buck, who was there documenting the talks in real time in drawings...including leading everyone in through the maze of construction around Warwick Library with these fabulous signs.

But in the mean time, suffice to say that we had some tremendous papers, and lively discussion about the nature of endurance sport, its relationship to identity, the role of charity / mass participation in endurance sport, the representation of experiences of endurance sport, the role of gender, race and class in the experiences of  endurance sports, and lots more besides.

I gave a paper on the sensory pleasures of marathon swimming - this is my attempt to try to move the focus away from narratives of toughness, suffering and overcoming that tend to dominate, and to think about the other reasons why people engage with the sport; I wanted to think about the pleasures of swimming that make people want to do it for its own sake, rather than only for the pleasures of completing a swim. The video of the talk will go up on the website, but for now, here's the drawing that Matt did of talk, showing the key themes...


  1. I love the 'talks pleasure' map. Even with the shark facing the swimmer, I still feel at ease.

  2. I like your approach. This isn't always fun for me, but fun is always my motivation. I am not trying to conquer anything.

    The only problem with fun/pleasure as a motivation is that I feel embarrassed when I don't have fun. It seems bratty or ungrateful.

  3. Hi Katie
    I know what you mean. I do sometimes feel that I resent swims that don't go so well, which doesn't seem particularly productive. And because I haven't been training for a big swim this year, when I've not been having a good day, I've been much more likely to get out early, whereas I would stick it out if I were training seriously. So it's obviously never all about pleasure, any more than it's all about suffering and overcoming. But at its best, there's nothing like it.

  4. Really enjoying your blog K. I have just started learning to swim at the perfect age of 33! Who knows where it will end up, once I get comfortable with my head under the water (haha). I have just started a blog to record the long journey Are there any swimming blogs out there that you would recommend?

  5. Good for you, dtw. Never too late to learn, and so much fun to be had. I like your blog too - a great idea. There's a bunch of blogs listed on my research website ( - mostly Channel swim blogs but some good reading. You should also take a look at Jenny Landreth's blog "Swimming Round London" - a wonderful tour of London pools.
    Good luck with your project.

  6. Brilliant! Thanks for your help. Best of luck with future projects.


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