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Enduring or Stubbornness? What It Takes to Be a “Runner” With Physical Limitations

A plethora of literary and scholarly books and articles have been written on endurance sports such as long distance running and cycling and successful athletes within these endurance sports such as Paula Radcliffe, Haile Gebrselassie, and Jan Ullrich. Although these athletes certainly deserved the recognition they received, there is limited information on how every day individuals who attempt to engage in endurance sport who never achieve such stardom are observed, portrayed, or even recognized within the running community or with their own embodied identity. In this autoethnography, I explore the notion of what it means to be an endurance runner, particularly from the perspective of a person who was once able to run long distances, but currently “endures” what it takes to put one foot in front of the other with chronic physical limitations. I utilize Foucault’s panopticon to frame this autoethnography as I navigate running experiences in my neighborhood, and the surveillance of others, in my struggle with my changing embodied identity. I argue that it is time to give voice to the individuals who are physically limited and potentially silenced or hidden, especially those who formerly were fully functional and able-bodied athletes and had to transition to a different form of sport or activity due to their chronic physical limitations.