4-1 | Fell Running and Voluptuous Panic


Fell Running and Voluptuous Panic
On Caillois and Post-Sport Physical Culture

Michael Atkinson


As many cultural groups in Western societies have become disaffected with mainstream sports cultures and their logics of practice, sociologists of sport and physical culture have turned their attention to the existential benefits of play and games. There is growing interest in revisiting and exploring the classic theories of play in society, including those of Roger Caillois. The author considers the increasingly popular practice of fell running among a group of enthusiasts in the United Kingdom as an activity that playfully embraces and celebrates the voluptuous panic of ilinx activities. He argues that fell running is not a pure form of ilinx as defined by Caillois but that the sport’s willful—and highly pleasurable—disruption of the mind and body through vertigo and panic fits Caillois’s description of the benefits of play and games. Using ethnographic data about fell runners collected during two years in the United Kingdom, the author suggests that they make existential connections with time, space, and the elements through the voluptuous panic and animal mimicry described by Caillois and others. Key words: Roger Caillois; fell running; ilinx; physical- cultural studies; post-sport physical culture; voluptuous panic