Denison, J  (2006)  'The Way We Ran: Reimagining Research and the Self', in Journal of Sport and Social Issues 30 (4): 333 - 39.

 [A polyvocal piece, evidently indebted to Denzin. The article consists of some personal reminiscences about runners, and some remarks from Denzin, set one after the other in the polyvocal style. There are also one or two hesitations about writing autoethnography.

As usual, it is largely pointless to summarise the personal stories, and you will have to read them for yourself. Various runners are remembered and described in terms of their motivations and their particular ways of dealing with running and competition. For example  'Some guys were tough runners, and pain never slowed them down. Some guys talked and talked on runs and didn't shut up... There were insecure guys... There were confident guys' (334).

The more theoretical commentary turns on matters such as whether there is a consistent self whose characteristics revealed themselves in those running styles of long ago. The writer's own views about running have apparently affected his academic writing, for example:  'Feel, rhythm, and pacing were as important to me as speed and results. That's why when I write I try to balance short sentences with long sentences, dialogue with exposition, and theory with story' (334). In this particular case, the obvious retort is that Denison's actual writing is pretty pedestrian, and he seems to have learnt his style from some basic creative writing course -- but that would be waspish.

There is quite a lot of this analogy between writing and running --'as crafts both eschew pretence and formality. They are twin acts covering related scenes: emotion, energy, concern.' (334). Then there is a break and we are discussing recollections of Denzin's graduate research seminar, and his injunctions to write with passion and creativity, breaking conventions.

Then there is a more formal account of what Denzin says in his book Performance Ethnography (2003). This adds the view that stories should be linked to 'cultural criticism and theoretical reflection'  (335). Denison admits this is difficult to do, and discusses trying to do so with the stories of runners and athletes that are summarised here. More  recollection of those athletes and their subsequent careers follows, then we are back to the issue of whether there is or is not a single essential self, and a worry that there should be commitment and action rather than  '"just stories"' (336). However, concepts might not be easily conveyed in {simple and naively realist} stories.

On to another section recalling the subsequent careers of runners -- some turned to body-building, others dropped out, some continued without much enthusiasm. Then a more general comment about tensions that affect the way we develop in our lives, and a recommendation that stories contain such tensions and also become polyvocal. Only polyvocal stories indicate that  'the self is a relational creation' (338). Bauman is cited about how identities float.

It is also important to tell stories which involve the possibility of change --  'it is in this way that our stories need to become performative' (339). Description alone is insufficient, but performative writing  'infuses our work with tremendous transformational and transgressive potential' (339). Without being unkind, I find myself asking -- so where the hell is any of that in this sad and brief article?]

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