Have I Made Myself Queer?: Writing and Revising the Gendered Running Body

Over the course of the last ten years or so I’ve been slowly queering my body. I use the term “queer” here to signify both the fluid (il)legibility of my sex/gender/sexuality that has been the consequence of this queering, and to nod to the LGBTQ community with which I began to identify when I told my mother at nineteen, “Mom, I’m not gay—but I’m dating Kristen.” 

I remember several glasses of wine, and then Mom singing, “If you were gay, that’d be okay.”

I also remember, four years later, before going out to the bars, one of my best friends telling me, “You look like such a lesbian” (outfit pictured below). On the eve of Thanksgiving, what might best be described as a swarm of alums from my local public high school who have returned home to visit family fills the bars in the neighboring town. In fact, there are so many of them (us?) that by nine or ten p.m. you have to stand outside in line waiting to get into the most popular bars. This is significant because I’m talking about New Jersey. In November. (It’s cold.) And though most of the men are dressed reasonably for the weather, most of the women’s arms, legs, and chests are exposed to the frigid fall air. (Mine, as you can see, were not.) 

Thanksgiving Eve, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve, 2012

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with running, don’t run away—I’ll get back on track—once I clear this hurdle. (Who doesn’t love a good run pun?) As a recent glowing student evaluation of mine explains, I’m “very scatterbrained but it keeps the class interesting when in discussion.” So allow me to jog my memory—I’ll try to keep it interesting.

I’m not here to defend my fashion choices (they’re largely indefensible), but I do think that my unfortunate outfit—in conjunction with the other body modifications and technologies I was exploring and would continue exploring—is worth theorizing. I’m talking here about athletic identity, and that means both having a body that performs and performing a body.

In her article “Judith Butler Redux—The Heterosexual Matrix and the Out Lesbian Athlete: Amélie Mauresmo, Gender Performance, and Women’s Professional Tennis,” Kristi Tredway explains Butler’s theory of the heterosexual matrix:

Judith Butler’s heterosexual matrix (a sex-gender-sexuality tripartite system) accounts for how we make assumptions of what we see based on normative frameworks in society. Her theory explains the experiences of people who are closeted or those with non-normative genders, where sex and gender are the known categories, and from which the viewer, then, assumes a particular sexuality. (164)

I’ve offered my friend’s assessment of my Thanksgiving Eve bar-hopping outfit as evidence of this matrix, but I’ll offer you two anecdotes that perhaps illustrate its influence even more notably:

1. January 2011: Three of my best friends are visiting me in New York, about fifteen miles north of Manhattan, where I’m living and writing and working on my MFA. Two of my friends are female; one is visiting with her male fiance, and the other has come to visit on her own. It’s a weeknight, they’ve all driven a number of hours to get here, and it’s getting late, so instead of trekking into the city, I take them to the local graduate student watering hole near campus, right across from the Metro-North station. There aren’t many people here; it’s just the four of us on one side of the bar, and three or four men on the other side. I’m wearing plaid and drinking beer, as usual (pictured below), in part because I love both, in part because I think they convey “toughness” (read: masculinity; read: lesbianism), and in part because I think they make me look like a “writer,” another identity I’m negotiating. 

It’s about this time that I start sometimes wearing Nike and UnderArmour sweat bands on my right wrist, sometimes right over the racing stripe scars I received when I accidentally burned myself with peanut oil working the fryer at my summer job. (You can sort of see them in the picture below; you can sort of still see them now.) Sometimes I wear the bands below the scars so I can perform both bourgeois sportiness and rugged athleticism—simultaneously. I have not yet given up on styling my hair, though I will hack it all off soon. I am hiding it beneath various hats daily.

January 2011

January 2011

Eventually one of the men from across the room comes over and stands next to my friend, the one who’s here on her own. The man is flirting with her—or trying to. I’m only half paying attention because I’m drunk and because she doesn’t need me—or anyone else—to intervene (but I do now remember something to the effect of “You smell so exotic. What are you wearing?”). She backs away and discourages him, politely (I say this as if this detail is necessary or relevant), at which point he takes a step back and looks from her to me. From her to me. And then says this to her: “Oh. You’re here with her [me, of course].” My friend responds, “No, but I’d take her over you any day.” 

I confess that what happens next is blurry. The guy’s in my face, and I think he might hit me. I must not be the only one who thinks this, because one of his friends from the other side of the bar comes over and pulls him away from us, and apologizes for him. Meanwhile, the drunk Don Juan fumbles his way to his pickup truck and drives aggressively away on the main street.

We learn later that he’s an off-duty NYPD cop. At least that’s what we’re told.

For years I laugh as I tell this story, joking about all the “bar fights” I got (myself) into while I was living in New York trying to find myself (as a running lesbian warrior poet, obviously!). Eventually I tell the story a bit more seriously, only laughing as I introduce it as a “bar fight” story, sharing it with my students in my “Issues of Gender” class. 

I still discuss the story with a certain levity, but no longer without the tacit understanding of the physical violence with which I—we—were threatened. 

And the other violence that undergirded the assumption that she was here with her.

“I would have lost, but I would have gone down swinging!” I say. Or, “I’m scrappy. I could have taken him!” 

A year later I would conclude that I probably couldn’t have physically overtaken a man his size, but that I could probably have outrun him.

Now I’m not sure I can do either. (And what do I do with that?)

2. September 2012: I’ve just recently moved to Louisiana from New York, and my girlfriend and her friends take me to Ladies’ Night at a western-themed saloon and night club. I’m still wearing plaid, for the same reasons I wore it in 2011, but also now because tonight it seems to fit the theme; I’ve paired my shirt with a pair of cowboy boots. By now I’ve hacked off my hair, which gets shorter the closer I get to the New York Marathon. I’m registered to run it in a little over a month. I jokingly make a comment about worrying that the bouncer at the door won’t identify me as a “lady” and stamp my hand for free drinks. (In reality, I am actually worried about this, and, more specifically, about what sort of altercation might follow if he doesn’t see me as a “lady.” The TSA sometimes calls me “sir” now, and I’ve overheard kids asking their parents if I’m “a boy or a girl.”) The bouncer does stamp my hand, though, and as he does, I take a look at the club rules posted behind his head, one of which reads “ABSOLUTELY NO FIGHTING.” I make a joke about this with my friends as well. (I do have a history of bar fights, after all.)

We’re all dancing and having a good time. (Or they’re all dancing, and I’m trying to learn how to two-step. Unsuccessfully. And this is after only one knee surgery. I don’t try to two-step anymore.) Another patron (male, drunk) comes over to me and opens with this line: “So you don’t like guys.” 

It’s not a question; it’s a statement. 

“I’m sorry—what?” I respond. 

“So you don’t like guys,” he repeats. 

“ABSOLUTELY NO FIGHTING” flashes behind my eyelids, so I take a deep breath and coyly ask, “Why would you assume that?” 

He’s far too drunk to engage in rhetoric or repartee, so this doesn’t get me very far. Finally I cave and say I’m here with my girlfriend in the hopes that he’ll walk away and leave me alone. He doesn’t. 

There are a number of other equally charming things he says to me and to my friends. These are hazier in my memory now, but I do clearly remember what he does next: he takes out his phone and shows me a picture of his penis. (This is advertisement. This is his rhetorical gesture.) He then swipes his finger across his phone to move through the photo gallery and lands on a picture of a naked woman, a photo shot from behind. I’m led to assume she was naked with him consensually, but I am skeptical that she consented to the photograph, and I have serious doubts that if she did she also consented to this particular use of it. I say something to him about it being disrespectful, something to make him put it away. Eventually two women who are presumably there with him come over to apologize to us and drag him back onto the dance floor.

When I began seriously identifying as a runner, evidence of Butler’s heterosexual matrix was even more ubiquitous, and I became most (self-)conscious of it in sporting spaces, specifically gyms.

(Cue Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus: “The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”)

Tredway argues that Butler’s “concept does not work for people who are already out because the known categories are sex and sexuality, leading the viewer to assume…a particular gender” (164), and she then extends and modifies Butler’s theory to argue its implications for out lesbians in sporting contexts, offering as an example the ways in which female tennis player Amélie Mauresmo’s body, though its structure was “indistinguishable from most professional tennis players of her time” (165) was the focus of discussion after she came out as a lesbian, the ways in which she “was socially constructed as masculine in the discourse because, by rejecting heterosexuality, she, essentially, was understood as rejecting femininity” (173).

What I’m interested in sloppily starting to work out (pun intended) here is the kind of heterosexual female sporting matrix I found myself alternately perpetuating and resisting as I began performing both my identities as runner and as lesbian simultaneously. 

Women’s sport has a history of being read (and stigmatized) as both masculine and lesbian; in fact, “women’s sport has been labeled a lesbian activity,” as Pat Griffin explains in “Changing the Game: Homophobia, Sexism, and Lesbians in Sport” (252-253). While Butler’s heterosexual matrix is “a sex-gender-sexuality tripartite system” (Tredway 164), what Griffin is describing might be read as a sex-sexuality-athleticism tripartite system. In other words, where sex and athleticism/status-as-athlete are known categories, viewers assume sexuality—based on the ways athleticism is read as gendered. As in, a woman who is an athlete in x ways or to the extent of y is read as increasingly masculine—and lesbian.

Sporting women are aware of these readings of their athletic gendered and sexed (and sexualized) bodies, and they respond/react to it in a number of ways. K.L. Broad points to literature in sport sociology that documents female athletes “apologizing” for their masculine sporting, as well as to literature that documents how “women resist (rather than conform to) gender norms through sport” (183), and she argues that the female apologetic is “at heart, also a ‘lesbian apologetic’” (184). In Broad’s study of rugby players (”The Gendered Unapologetic: Queer Resistance in Women’s Sport”) she argues that the female rugby players she interviewed and observed “were doing queer resistance because they performed gender transgression, asserted sexual fluidity, and enacted ‘in your face’ presentations of a stigmatized self” (188). Specifically, they dismissed the concerns and complaints of “doctors, boyfriends, and family” who discouraged their participation in a physical, violent (read: masculine) sport and instead “resisted and challenged beauty standards through their continued participation in the sport” (189). 

Some of the runners I’ve interviewed have also talked about disapproving boyfriends, family members, and doctors who subscribe to the belief that “running is bad for you [them].” Most don’t remember or present these declarations as having been gendered (though some do), but the resistance they receive to their running in their own personal lives does exist within a history of the belief that “running is bad for you (because you’re a woman).” Griffin offers a quick, effective gloss of this history:

Although the death penalty for female spectators was too extreme for the late 19th and 20th centuries, an increasingly influential medical establishment warned white upper-class women about the debilitating physiological effects of vigorous athleticism, particularly on the reproductive system. Women were cautioned about other ‘masculinizing effects’ as well, such as deeper voices, facial hair, and overdeveloped arms and legs. (251)

Broad talks about the specters of masculinity and lesbianism that haunt women’s rugby, and Jennifer K. Wesely talks about how they haunt female bodybuilding in “Negotiating Gender: Bodybuilding and the Natural/Unnatural Continuum,” and they’re certainly not absent from women’s running either. Perhaps you’ve seen the famous photo of Kathrine Switzer running the Boston Marathon in 1967, her male peers serving as physical barriers between her body and the body of the official trying to remove her from the race. There was a queer resistance in her registration under the genderless “K. Switzer” not dissimilar to that of the female “ruggers” Broad writes about, who “chose to be athletes rather than grow their fingernails, who found value in being ‘tough’” (189), or to that of the female bodybuilders Wesely writes about, who, “although recognizing that the built female body was not the ideal feminine body, still found that this body garnered them some semblance of body control” (173). After all, in 1967, “[a]nything long like 800 m, or even longer, God forbid, was considered dangerous, de-sexing and de-feminising for a woman,” as the fear was “that their uterus might fall out and their legs would get big, and maybe they would grow hair on their chests” (”Boston, 1967: When Marathons Were Just for Men”).

Broad characterizes such resistance as the “female unapologetic,” which she contrasts with the “female apologetic” and defines as “comprised of transgressing gender, destabilizing the heterosexual/homosexual binary, and ‘in your face’ confrontations of stigma—all characteristics of queer resistance” (181). There is absolutely a female unapologetic in women’s running, as in women’s rugby, and I myself have been unapologetic of my queer running identity and its resistance to stable, limited, binary notions of gender and sexuality. Broad explains that the rugby players’ desire “to be ‘in your face’ about their athletic preferences” manifested in bumper stickers, T-shirts, and various rugby paraphernalia, and that some “went so far as to proclaim their rugby identity through tattoos” (195). There are certainly strong parallels to much of this in the running community. (Examples: the bumper stickers that say “26.2” and “13.1” loudly attached to my hatchback, which I, crying, tried to remove a few weeks ago; the running T-shirts that I, crying, donated to Goodwill a few weeks ago; and my running tattoos, pictured below.) In fact, there’s such a strong parallel to much of this in the running community that now other drivers sport parodic stickers that read “0.0.” 

2012 (upper) and course map of the NYC Marathon, 2013 (lower)

2012 (upper) and course map of the NYC Marathon, 2013 (lower)

Significantly, Broad explains that the rugby players’ paraphernalia “were not simply items identifying them as rugby players,” but rather that much of it was “characterized by witty sayings that took those very same characteristics for imputing deviance and advertised them” (196). She argues that “rugby players used stigma symbols to not only reveal but revel in their perceived deviance” (196). (Here I think of the T-shirt I had that read “My sport is your sport’s punishment,” of the half marathon runners who wear shirts that say “Only half crazy,” and of the magnet I had that read “Running is cheaper than therapy.”) Broad concludes that these rugby players’ “in your face” sporting of their deviant sporting identities goes beyond mere reclamation to “a deconstruction of rugby identity” (197):

So, by wearing rugby jerseys and rugby sweatshirts (identifying players as rugby players), players construct a ‘rugby’ identity, but by having t-shirts and bumper stickers that say such things as ‘rugby players eat their dead’ and ‘chicks dig us ‘cause we play rugby,’ players deconstruct it through confrontational perversions. By reveling in their ‘deviant’ status, players are not making claims to an identity in order to rebel against its stigma (e.g., ‘gay pride’), but are enacting a complex construction/deconstruction of identity that parallels actions of queer street activists (e.g., ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it’). (197)

I have certainly used my body and gender and sporting expression in a kind of female unapologetic.

But, problematically, I’ve also used my running identity to apologize for my queer body and the lesbian identity I feared it betrayed:

Summer 2013: I’ve just completed my treadmill workout at Planet Fitness. I’ve noticed a man across the gym wearing a visor sporting the name of a local high school team look over my way a few times. I think I may be imagining his gaze until I see that his eyes (and his gait) continue to follow me as I move to the enclave of the gym where people often do stretches and ab work. This section of the gym is surrounded by half walls, and my headphones are in (the universal gym signal for “I don’t want to talk,” right?), but neither of these realities deters this guy from leaning over the edge of the wall and talking at me until I take my headphones out so I can hear him.

“Hey, can I ask you a question?” he asks.

“Sure.” (I mean, I guess so. You’ve harassed me and interrupted my workout, so I imagine you’re going to ask me a question whether or not I say you “can.”)

“Why do you wear your hair like that?”

I’m taken off-guard, though I suppose I really shouldn’t be. People feel very free to comment on my body, I’ve noticed, specifically on my hairstyle—whether they’re doing so to denigrate me (I think of the men who pulled up beside me at a stoplight and shouted “You’re bald!”) or to compliment me (I think of the woman who pulled her car over while I was out walking the dog just so she could roll down her window and tell me she liked my hair, that it suited me). 

I defensively assume he’s looking for me to tell him I’m a lesbian, as if that’s a reason for why I would choose to cut my hair short. (And, admittedly, it’s complex, isn’t it? I wear my hair this way because I like it and because I never liked anything I could get my hair to do when it was long. Short hair also feels great running in Louisiana heat and humidity. And though it does sometimes get me some very unwanted male—and female—attention, I have also found that it sometimes deters unwanted attention and encourages desired attention too.)

“Have you ever tried running with long hair in this heat?” I ask, heart rate elevated, trying to temper the defensive venom behind my words. The fear.

He laughs. “You just don’t see many women wearing their hair like that.” (What I hear: “Straight women don’t wear their hair like that.”)

“That’s because they haven’t tried it,” I tell him.

This wasn’t the only time I felt I needed to use my running identity to explain my appearance, afraid it might be read as evidence of a lesbian identity. And though I do enjoy the way it feels to run without a full head of (feminine) hair, I feel conflicted about this apologetic stance. 

This also wasn’t the only time I felt incredibly defensive negotiating my gender/sexual/running identities in this particular Planet Fitness. Let me begin by saying this: there’s a sign outside of the locker rooms that reads “to maintain our no gymtimidation environment, please no jeans, boots, sandals, or string tanktops.” Okay, fine. “String tanktops” to me, though, seems to imply this: “or string tanktops if you’re a woman.” I say this both because of the feminine clothing that the phrase “string tanktops” seems to connote and conjure and because I always saw men in that gym who had cut the sleeves off of their T-shirts and cut them down to their hipbones so that you could see their entire torsos (and often, a peek of nipple outside one half of the shirt). There seems to be a bit of a double standard here. I’m also particularly sensitive about the time a staff member approached me as I was working out on the elliptical and told me I had to remove my bandana, which I had tied around my head as a headband. (Note that although some Planet Fitness signs do forbid “do rags” and bandanas, the sign outside of these particular locker rooms indicated no such thing.) This wouldn’t have angered me so much if I didn’t later see men in that same gym wearing bandanas—and women too, but women who looked “like women” (read: straight women). 

Such double standards are disappointing but unsurprising. As Wesely argues, culturally “[m]en are disembodied; if they have have bodies, these bodies are incidental and unproblematic. In contrast, women’s bodies are messy, uncontained, uncontrolled” (164). Because, according to Wesely’s study, both male and female bodybuilders “feel empowered” in bodybuilding, “sometimes in specifically gendered ways,” it can be defined as “a technology of masculinity or femininity that, in a Foucaultian sense, reproduces power through body discipline” (173). Significantly, though, “body building as a technology of femininity applies only to a point,” she argues, as her “interviewees found the hugely built body beyond the pale of femininity” (173). If they built their bodies so that they were just strong enough, they could feel empowered as women, but if they went too far, they’d be read as masculine.

At least to the same extent that I try to write my body or write through my body, and through my intersecting identities, I know other people are going to read my body and (super)impose readings on it. And to suggest that the process of writing my body or writing myself through my body is unitary or straightforward would be incorrect.

And this seems to be true for the other runners I’ve spoken with this summer as well, as they also try to articulate their bodies and articulate their identities through their bodies. Some have lamented that they “don’t look like a runner” or “don’t look like a runner anymore,” while others are proud to eschew the constraints of what Maylon T. Hanold calls “the normative running body” (168), typically associated with marathoners, in favor of a more muscular build. Some of these women (many, actually) have suffered the physical/psychical stresses of trying to attain a normative running body, as light and as fast as possible. Others have talked empoweringly about the variety of body shapes present at events they’ve participated in or on teams they’ve coached or with whom they’ve run, and about the beauty and power of what their bodies have been able to do throughout the changes concomitant with injury and recovery and training and pregnancy.

As much as I feel conflicted about it, I have to concede that (all) bodies change, not just long-term as they age, and not just in response to dramatic and traumatic stimuli, but also daily. Wesely argues that “bodybuilding, as both a technology and a technology of the self [using Foucault’s terms] is a way for those who employ it to constantly negotiate and understand themselves,” arguing further that just as “body technologies cannot be limited at any one time to a static meaning that either reinforces or challenges gender identity,” they also can’t be limited to “either natural or unnatural,” and, consequently, bodybuilders understand their bodies “at different places on a continuum as they negotiate their identities” (167). 

Wesely found this to be especially true for the female bodybuilders in her study:

[A]lthough they were affected by social expectations, the women’s gender identities read through their built bodies were negotiated on an ongoing basis. This is reflected largely by the choices they made over time to keep their body size in flux. The women interviewed presented body technologies they employed as ever-evolving, portraying their bodies as more malleable and negotiable than some of their responses might reveal. The changing versions of body size, shape, and purpose over time represent the women as active agents who consistently made choices about their bodies. (174)

Runners, similarly, make choices about their bodies and how they will perform them—even when they can’t control how they (their bodies) will perform. 

May 2015: After my disappointing attempt at a marathon comeback, I sit in my surgeon’s office with what he’s determined is just runner’s knee. (It’s not just runner’s knee, but this is another story, for other doctors, and for another time.) I say, hesitantly, that I worry I may have been overtraining. (And I absolutely was. And the temptation to do so is still strong and insistent even as I sit here recording this anecdote on my self-imposed rest day. But I digress.) He assures me it’s going to take me some time to get my muscle strength and endurance back, that I should try to do what bodybuilders do: eat and rest. And focus on strength training. And be willing to gain some weight. Near tears I insist that I have been, that I’ve been doing a strength training/boot camp class three days a week on top of my marathon training and my physical therapy, and that I’ve gained ten pounds since the accident. I tell him I know there’s no way all of that is muscle, but I’m working so hard and trying so hard, and balancing my macronutrients, and I don’t understand what else I can possibly do. (I realize I can’t remember when I started weighing and portioning all of my meals with a food scale.) He smiles and says he could see in my arms when I walked in that I’ve been working out, and encouragingly gives me a handshake as he leaves the examination room. 

What a running body looks like is different for different runners, and it’s also in flux, ever-evolving. I’m much broader on top now than I was when I first started. And though (I’d like to) think both my left and right quads are visibly thicker than they were six years ago, my right one remains significantly thicker than my left. You can tell when I put on the new men’s Dockers dress pants I bought to teach in this past fall—my left leg slides in easily and comfortably, while my right leg is starting to look a little bit like a hefty sausage in its casing in there. (I’m still working on single-leg strength training exercises several times a week trying to close the gap. The left leg is significantly stronger than it was, I think—I’m afraid to schedule a strength test—but the right leg continues to make gains more easily and more quickly. I’d be thrilled to bust out of those pants, as long as it was in the thighs—not at the waist line—and as long as my left leg was busting out too.) 

The pants are significant for another reason too. When I (thought I had) lost running, I felt like I needed to reinvent myself—and my body. I call these my “teacher pants.” I couldn’t walk around like a Chris Powell wannabe anymore. (This was the dream: cargo shorts, V-neck T-shirt, buzz cut, bulging muscles, winning smile.) I was never going to be a fitness trainer now. I was never even going to run another marathon. So I also bought a vest. I bought dress shoes. 

I was trying to reinvent myself through my body, ironically, because I felt my body had left me and taken my identity with it. 

I am trying to accept (and I really hate that word—just ask my psychologist—or my mother) that my body is going to be in flux, both in the ways (and weighs) it performs and in how I perform my identity through it. Wesely notes that the women she interviewed “began bodybuilding because other, more socially admired versions of the female body—like being waifishly thin, for instance—were frustrating and difficult for them to attain” (172). This is something I struggle with too, and maybe that’s part of why I highlight my masculine and/or lesbian performances. 

I don’t have a “normative running body.” (I only tentatively say that I currently have a running body at all.) And I don’t have the “ideal” female body either, in the ways that that may differ from the normative running body. Even my “skinny leg” doesn’t fit in skinny jeans that would fit my waist, and much to my dismay, my stomach, I think, will always extend farther out than my breasts do, in what I call “The Sneetch.” (See: Dr. Seuss. No, really. Google Image search it right now: “The Sneetches.”) And I will never subject my reconstructed knee to heels again. 

Much to my chagrin, I can’t really look like Chris Powell either. But I can build my arms and my back, and, to a point (which I have thankfully not yet overreached), even my left leg. 

Sometimes people read me as a man(nish lesbian). 

Sometimes people read me as a runner. (One woman in physical therapy at my rehab facility asked me if I was a professional dancer. That one was unexpected.)

Allow me to quote Wesely again (and allow me to use a lazy signal phrase because this is a blog post and because my writing identity is also in flux): 

It is…problematic to assert fixed and binary gender identity categories because it denies individual agency in negotiating identity meanings. Interpretations of gender identity, read through the body, must leave room for the ways that individuals attempt to refashion, recreate, or reconstruct their gendered sense of self. (163)

(For now, anyway) I run this body, and I refashion, recreate, and reconstruct it. And it’s becoming clear to me that there’s something queer about that. But the body and spaces I’m queering exist at the intersection of a number of identities, “woman,” “runner,” and “lesbian” representing only a small fraction of them.

In “In/Visible Bodies: Lesbian Sexualities and Sporting Spaces,” Katherine M. Jamieson and Lelia E. Villaverde celebrate the initiation of “a larger ‘queering’ project, where not only are identity categories queered,” but “so are research methodologies within sporting discourses” (233), and they look forward to the possibilities of this project:

Focusing on the use/applicability of queer theory allows us to operationalize disruptions, mutability, and indiscernibility not for loss of meaning or erasure, but rather for the discovery of marginalized, lived experiences and theorizations necessary to trouble ‘business as usual’ readings. The potential of new reads in old spaces, so to speak, invites us into new zones of contention, becoming, and critical analysis. These practices offer interrogating methods to focus on the effects of knowledge on bodies, as well as the ways in which knowledge is both embodied and produced. These new reading practices do not gloss over nuances, but rather dwell in the in-between of physicality, identity, sexuality, truths, and place. (233)

Similarly, Samantha King calls for “a more robust queer approach” in sports scholarship, one through which “we might (re)contemplate whether queer studies need always refer to sexuality,” arguing that “[i]f queer takes its nonnormativity seriously, it should be applicable to any deviation from the norm, to any site of cultural familiarity that critics wish to make strange” (436). And she suggests that this kind of work “across the realm of sport will make clear that sexuality is no less important than we previously thought in shaping the culture of sport, but perhaps even more so” (436).

King also laments that “there is a considerable amount of research that travels under the sign ‘queer’ that neither accounts for people of color or the working class nor brings an analysis of race or class to bear on discussions of bourgeois White sexualities” (425-426), This is something I’m going to have to consider critically as I move forward with this project.

Of the 57 women who have taken the online survey for my study, 53 have offered a response to the question “How do you identify racially?” One respondent identifies as Asian, one identifies as multiracial, and one identifies as Hispanic. The rest identify as white. 

And of the 31 women with whom I’ve spoken on the phone, in person, or over Skype, all identify as White or Caucasian. 

My own racial identification is fraught and prime for analysis in this project. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it’s fluid: sometimes I move (and run) through the world as a white woman; other times my body is raced and read differently. 

These are just some initial notes and musings as I try to theorize queer running bodies and to queer running and to queer running bodies and running narratives—and to theorize what it is we’re resisting when we push against pavement (and patriarchy).

And to stop apologizing. 

Works Cited

”Boston, 1967: When Marathons Were Just for Men.” BBC News. BBC News, 16 April 2012. Web. 7 July 2016.

Broad, K.L. “The Gendered Unapologetic: Queer Resistance in Women’s Sport.” Sociology of Sport Journal 18 (2001): 181-204. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 2 June 2016.

Griffin, Pat. “Changing the Game: Homophobia, Sexism, and Lesbians in Sport.” Quest 44 (1992): 251-265. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 31 May 2016.

Hanold, Maylon T. “Beyond the Marathon: (De)Construction of Female Ultrarunning
Bodies.” Sociology of Sport Journal 27 (2010): 160-177. Print.

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