Running the Faith

Yesterday I entertained a luxuriously long run. I’ve been slowly working up to longer distances after 6 weeks away from jogging while on my most recent jaunt to Switzerland, and then India. I am happy to be working my way back up to my pre-travel fitness level. I walked as much as I could while away, and did a few exercises – a push-up here, a sit-up there – but now is the time to do a little catch-up.

I find running to be relaxing. I know that not everyone has this experience. But I find that I sometimes enter a Zen-like zone on the trail, something I’ve written about elsewhere. Jogging is pretty much meditation for me. I have a profound sense of God’s presence when I am running. I’m not at all surprised that the apostle uses a running metaphor to describe the spiritual life in 1 Cor. 9, although the idea of running to gain a prize isn’t altogether intriguing for me. Running is the prize, in my experience.

While on my most recent run I started thinking about running a marathon. Once upon a time, I was asked if I would ever do this, and I said no. At that time, I think the idea of the physical and time demand was a bit overwhelming. But now I find that I crave this time on the trail. I get lost in my thoughts, or perhaps my lack of thoughts. The idea of a marathon intrigues me because it will demand of me the sweet discipline of clocking in a significant number of kilometres each week in preparation. And so the idea of running a marathon marries the discipline of training and the experience of spiritual communion. I suppose it becomes, then, a spiritual discipline.

Spiritual disciplines are notoriously hard to define. It is easy to point to prayer, scripture, worship attendance etc. But I like an expansive definition, and readily include art, and conversation with friends, and walking, and baking, and running, etc. A spiritual discipline is an activity that promises a more intense awareness of God’s presence, although sometimes in the modality of a delayed gratification. There are so many ways in which I experience a more acute sense of the presence of God. To think that running has this benefit, as well as the joy of increasing one’s physical, emotion, and mental health too, is an amazing thing. But that is true, too, for other spiritual disciplines.

I am not absolutely certain that I will run a marathon this summer, but a seed has been planted. Perhaps the plant will be a surprise, but that’s the nature of grace, ever giving me joy in new and wonderous ways.

7 thoughts on “Running the Faith

  1. Rebekah says:

    Ive heard a lot of writerly people describe running as meditative and relaxing experience. I have tried many times to find enjoyment in running like this and it remains mostly an unpleasurable experience until afterwards. I love how I feel AFTER I run, but during feels like a kind of mental torture. I get bored. It helps tremendously to run in the woods, but I still kind of wish I enjoyed it more.

    • agjorgenson says:

      I don’t find running inspiring all the time, which is why I link it to the idea of delayed gratification. Sometimes I just do it because I know it is good for me, and then it catches me by surprise, and I get that runner’s high. But one of the things I often do, is run with the intention of thinking about some particular idea, or emotion, or concern. But I always try to leave a bit of time for mental wandering. That is very life giving.

  2. shoreacres says:

    I’m not given to proof-texting for a variety of reasons, but I could help remembering this, from Hebrews: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

    The last time I ran, it was to get away from a snake. I was pleased to know I can do it, but otherwise I’ll stick with walking. I have observed (in a completely non-scientific way) that people whose days are spent in work that tends toward the cerebral end of the spectrum are more enthusiastic about running. I’ve tried to think of a single boatworker of any sort who runs, and I can’t. It may be that spending days outdoors in manual labor sends us toward pursuits that are more sedentary. Interesting.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, I suspect that if I was a carpenter, or mailman running would hold absolutely no interest in me. Also, I think walking is an under-appreciated activity. Every now and then someone will approach me about taking up running, and I usually encourage them to start with walking, knowing that they may well end with walking, and that is a good thing indeed. I run because I like it. I’m no running evangelist. Pick your anti-poison is my philosophy.

      • shoreacres says:

        That’s part of what makes your meditations on the experience of running so approachable, and enjoyable. There’s not a bit of that “you have to do this to be a complete person” sort of nonsense. It’s just a look into a different way of experiencing life.

  3. I’ve only ever enjoyed running with other people, which probably takes the meditative part of it away…. hmm. It’s wonderful to read your thoughtful meditations on life, whether they come from running or poetry or the intersection of both!

    • agjorgenson says:

      I’ve never really ran with others. I wonder what it would be like? I find the breathing pattern to be part of the slip into meditation, and that would be lost if I chatted while running. But the social piece would be very nice.

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