Fell Running in Later Life: Irresponsible Intoxication or Existential Capital?

  • Sarah Nettleton
Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)


This chapter introduces the unique sport of fell running in the English Lake District and reports on an analysis of the views and experiences of older runners. Informed by a ‘carnal sociology’, it is argued here that attention to the visceral basis of meaning gives us insights into why people continue to participate in sport in later life. Contrary to contemporary sociological approaches to physical activity which are inclined to presume that older people participate in physical activity in order to comply with public health pronouncements and to act as responsible citizens, the data presented here suggest that there may be other more profound, existential reasons for their sustained participation. Deploying the conceptual tools of ‘embodied intoxication’ (Shilling and Mellor, 2011) and ‘existential capital’ (Nettleton, 2013), it is argued that that fell running which is a physically intense activity is transformative and involvement binds participants through a fleshly sociality. This is why men and women continue to run on the fells in later life even when they are cautioned by health professionals to ‘slow down’ or in the face of normative expectations that they should turn to more age-appropriate activities. Their imperative to run is because they run: an apparent tautology that we unpack throughout this chapter. We begin with a brief comment on sociological perspectives on ageing, fitness and diversity in later life.


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© Sarah Nettleton 2015

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  • Sarah Nettleton

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