This paper is anchored in the personal narrative of the author whose childhood interest in running was rekindled in adulthood. She prepared herself to run her first half marathon after practicing for a few years, despite a history of serious injuries. The paper offers observations and reflections of the author, as an amateur runner. In addition, insights and analysis are drawn from autobiographical accounts of elite runners like Indian ultra-distance runner Amit Sheth (2011) and North American ultramarathon distance runner Scott Jurek (2012). The paper examines the reasons for different runners to commence and continue to run in their adulthood. For those who are able to sustain, with passage of time, the act of running changes from being a physical and outward movement to a journey of inner transformation. For most scholars and pilgrims in India, pilgrimage has a traditional connotation. The contribution of this research lies in bringing to the fore a secular, contemporary, and interdisciplinary understanding of the notion of pilgrimage by connecting the practice of running with broader discussions in pilgrimage studies. Parallels are drawn between the running community and the ideas of a ‘utopian’ and ‘deeply contested’ communitas discussed by pilgrimage studies scholar George Greenia (2014). The ideas of scholars, Simon Coleman and John Eade (2004), on the topic of pilgrimage relating to embodied motion, sacralised movement, habitual social realms and kinetic ritual are applied to running, which is defined as ‘religion in motion’. Running as a pilgrimage with spatial and temporal dimensions is also discussed. Moreover, concepts in pilgrimage studies such as process and structure, individualism and community, traditional and contemporary forms of pilgrimages, mundane and extraordinary, established and emerging forms of socialisation and identity, are considered. An encompassing definition of pilgrimage is offered where conceptual dichotomies are blended and pilgrimage is redefined as a way of being or a joyous and peaceful state of mind.
"Running: An inclusive approach to understanding the notion of pilgrimages,"
International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage:
6, Article 13.
Available at: http://arrow.dit.ie/ijrtp/vol4/iss6/13