Cementing Relations within a Sporting Field: Fell Running in the English Lake District and the Acquisition of Existential Capital

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents findings from an ethnography of fell running in the English Lake District. A provocative concept – existential capital – is proposed to underscore the profits acquired from fell running as an embodied technique, and as a means of defining the shared passions within the field. These gains are acquired through corporeal techniques that require sustained physical effort, embodied vigilance, and knowledge of an environment that is topographically challenging and aesthetically arresting. The visceral pleasures intrinsic to existential capital are appreciated by those within the field and this, in turn, means that this solitary sport gives rise to an intense sociality that ‘only a runner can understand’. Field analysis conventionally focuses on struggles; it is suggested here that a focus on what is shared allows us to understand how the field gains an identity. Thus the notion of existential capital highlights the field as passionately defined in ways that challenge instrumentalism inherent to conventional modes of field analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-210
Number of pages15
JournalCultural Sociology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Bourdieu, corporeal sociology, embodiment, existential capital, fell running

Cite this