The race for data: Collecting data with Running Man Athletic Club
In this post, MSocSc Media Culture and Creative Cities students Yingyu, Weijia, Xiaoyang, Bowen, Yinghong and Wenxin share their experiences of completing their Capstone Projects in collaboration with Running Man Athletic Club.
Since entering the post-COVID era in which everyday life has returned to some normalcy, we have witnessed an increased popularity of both road and trail running in Hong Kong. As we are passionate about sport and, in particular, marathon running culture, we embraced the opportunity to work with our Community Partner, Running Man Athletic Club (RMAC), the biggest running club in Hong Kong encompassing over 5000 members, for our Capstone Project. We split our research into two groups, three of us (Yingyu, Weijia and Xiaoyang) examined the impact of class status on runners’ participation in marathon training, while the rest (Bowen, Yinghong and Wenxin) investigated the centrality of reflexivity with relevance to identity construction amongst working mother runners and stay-at-home mother runners.
Running and social class
For our research, we really wanted to know if RMAC can actually attract a broad range of Hong Kong people to participate in running by its course setting, training modes and running events, or whether it is just a certain class of people whom participated and interacted in the various events. With the support of RMAC’s founder, Coach Man, and friendly participants, we gained insights into the group through utilizing various research methods, such as questionnaires, participant observations, and semi-structured interviews. Our research was enthusiastically responded to by the runners whom shared their experiences of participating in marathons and their views on the expenditure of time and money on running.
Although individual runners all have personal reasons as to why they run and they belong to particular social classes that construct their own unique meanings of what running means to them, the shared bonds and close connections amongst runners are deeply rooted at RMAC. This study strongly argues that running is greatly influenced by class status as runners interest and participation degree deepen. Runners with relatively high class status attach more importance to the running experience and may view running as a discipline that requires in-depth learning and higher goals. For other individuals, they perceive running as a medium in improving their health and an opportunity to socialise with individuals whom share common interests. Even though people with different class statuses have varying motives as to why they run, runners only concentrate on the pure essence of running and achieving self-improvement when participating in the running community, such as joining RMAC classes. In essence, social class has little effect on one’s running participation.
Members warming up under the guidance of RMAC coaches
Renegotiating mothers’ identities through running
With RMAC’s support, we conducted interviews with mothers, in which we gained insight into their unique experiences of running activities, including how running fits into their daily lives, affects their day-to-day routines, and reconstructs their understanding and awareness of themselves. We also participated in marathon training with them to better observe their performances, further exploring their behaviors and attitudes.
The research process was both interesting and illuminating. During our interviews with the mother runners in the club, they shared details about the pervasive role of running in influencing their love lives and work as well as family experiences. Our main findings reveal that running challenges and even surpasses age discourse and traditional gender roles, such as unquestioned maternal responsibilities and inequal familial division of labour. Meanwhile, running plays an important role in adjusting the relationships with their children, partners, and family responsibilities.
Running and conducting research at RMAC not only allowed us to gain preliminary research experience, but also gave us the opportunity to gain insights into sports and culture. As we witness the growing popularity of running in Hong Kong, we hope that our findings can inspire more individuals, regardless of class or gender, to participate in this dynamic and friendly running community.
One of the classes that we had the opportunity to meet, talk to, and run with!