Cossacks, holy bread, running shorts and energy gels, the race for religion in modern societies

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Lane, Keith
Issue Date
BA (Hons) in Social Science
Dublin Business School
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The main purpose of this research was to explore the relationship between religion and sports. In The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life,(1915) Emile Durkheim argued that religion was a function of society which contained symbols, rituals, feelings of reverence and a community of believers which provided social cohesion, social control, provided meaning and purpose to individuals and a sense of belonging in the world. The aim of this research project was to discover whether long distance running provides some, or all of the functions for society set out by Durkheim. To do this, a qualitative research method was implemented. One round of six open ended, semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted to gain an insight into the experiences of long distance runners and to understand how their involvement with long distance running may have an influence on other aspects of their lives. Thematic Analysis was employed to analyse the resulting data. What emerged through the analysis of the findings suggested that long distance running develops self discipline, provides a universally shared sense of identity among its advocates, which works to promote social cohesion, a shared set of beliefs, good moral conduct and positive social action. The subjective nature of an individuals ‘spirituality’ and its relationship with ones faith was discussed, however this study concludes that further research is needed to address the question of whether long distance running can be viewed as a form of religion. Author keywords: Long distance running, Spirituality, Religion