This study investigates the impact of schemas related to the body on the experiences of runners in a mainstream running group, the FunRunners, and a more extreme ultrarunning group, the Ultramaniacs. I use the cases of running groups to make contributions to the field of cultural sociology by employing a variety of research methods including textual analysis of online chatboard interactions and content analysis of popular running publications. I use this data to explore public discourse around running, to examine the structuring of the two running groups, and to investigate the specific meaning structures at play in the groups. Ultimately, I wanted to know how hermeneutics matter in human lived experience. Also, what is the relationship between internal group cultures and external macro cultures? And why do processes or objects that garner no attention in one setting become objects of intense focus in another and what effect does this have? That is, are there cultural virtuosi within the running world, ala Weber’s religious virtuosi, and, if so, what processes constitute them?
The focus on the FunRunners and Ultramaniacs was chosen primarily because of the possibilities for seeing the processes of interest here in order to build theory and best illustrate meaning-making and meaning-influence. This is not a study about running, it is a study of the sui generis creation of meaning in groups, an examination of the conditions both organizational and external under which this meaning-making is most likely to occur, and then an exploration of how the meanings created (at times) within groups can matter to the people who encounter and hold them. The layered exploration of these processes in this study shows that not all people are equally likely to pay attention to meanings in all areas of their lives. There are many places where meaning is taken for granted, and in part, this study shows why cultural virtuosi are created in certain types of situations.