To read this content please select one of the options below:

An Enduring Event: 20 Years of One Athlete’s Negotiation with Pain at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships

The Suffering Body in Sport

ISBN: 978-1-78756-069-7, eISBN: 978-1-78756-068-0

Publication date: 24 July 2019



To explore the sociology of sport-related pain through an autoethnographic focus on the contiguous, 20-year participation of one professional athlete at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Kona, Hawaii; to address the “well heeded, long-standing and vociferous calls ‘to bring the body back in to social theory’” (Hockey & Collinson, 2007, p. 2) by allowing authorial reflection on the negotiations of pain during those decades of elite competition.


Negotiated sports pain is explored as the subject/author allows visceral memory over a two-decade arc of professional-level participation at the Ironman. The ethnographic study is a combination of self-reflection, phenomenology, supportive and correlative theory, and detailed peripheral aspects of one elite athlete as he discusses the roles, levels, types, applications, and meanings of pain during the training and racing of the Ironman Triathlon World Championships. Allowances are made for reflective and subjective narratives in service of introducing sensorial elements to this area of the sociology of pain.


This chapter addresses several calls for a focus on the “practical experiences of the body” (Wainwright & Turner, 2006, p. 238) or what Hockey and Collinson (2007) call the “lacking (of) a more ‘fleshy’ perspective, a ‘carnal sociology’ (Crossley, 1995) of sport.” The details provided by the author/athlete offer a more personal and intimate view of how sports pain is negotiated over the arc of two decades of high-level competition. A sometimes brutally honest and objective self-reflection reveals the inner workings of a professional athlete turned college professor as he reflects on the multiplicity of roles that pain served and played during his 20 years at the Ironman World Triathlon Championships.


With a dearth of “embodied” studies on the sociology of sports-related pain, particularly by elite athletes who lived much of their youth in a physical culture that requires the near-constant negotiation of pain, this chapter provides a deep inside-out look at one case with its sensorial, phenomenological, and temporal insight to pain management.



Tinley, S. (2019), "An Enduring Event: 20 Years of One Athlete’s Negotiation with Pain at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships", The Suffering Body in Sport (Research in the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 12), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 55-70.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019 Emerald Publishing Limited