I've sat down with my computer several times in recent days to write a post about my new love of, and obsession with, running. While words often come to me quickly, I've had a hard time writing about running, and each of those draft blogposts have ended up in the pixel dustbin. My new discipline is not terribly profound, and I haven't much insightful to say about it. I'm a pastor, but I find myself uninspired to write spiritual or theological words about my almost-daily, pre-dawn routine of running solo. I just love running for how it makes me feel, and I'm not sure that Jesus or metaphysics or great insights are to be drawn to or from it – or, at least, I'm not sure that I'm the person to draw such insights.
[Well, I've tried to be thoughtful and theological about my running in a few past posts, including Making Meaning on a Sunday Morning, about skipping church to run the Army Ten Miler, and The Kingdom of God is Like a 10K Race, a parable about running that I imagined coming from the mouth of Jesus.]
I just love running, plain and simple.
My running obsession was fueled this week by a few post-run weigh-ins that measured my mass at 216 pounds – far less than the 235-240 pounds I was carrying around just a few months ago. At 6 feet tall, I still have a ways to go, but I'm making progress. Even at my 18 year-old fitest, I was one of the heavier (yet one of the faster) runners on my track team at 169 pounds. I'd be thrilled to get down to 200 pounds these days. But I've already made some good progress. My belt buckle is joining forces with new belt holes to keep my oversized pants up, and the number of chins on my face is reducing. It's a great change.
Besides looking better – if I do say so myself – I feel better, too. I can run up the stairs without getting winded. I feel better at the end of the day these days than I did at the end of a day several months ago. I have more energy, even as I expend much more energy.
But I'm enjoying the workouts themselves, and not just the results of those workouts. I find running alone for an hour or two to be wonderfully freeing. Just me and my thoughts, and the world around me. Some people say they get bored on their long runs. Not me. I run through wonderful parks and across streets, alongside an interstate and, increasingly, nearby national monuments. I see people and observe wildlife. I notice poorly shoveled sidewalks and spy planets peeking out of the dark morning sky. I watch the sun rise, and I hear Metro trains rattle into town. I work on sermons and think back to long lost friends. I replay discussions and make plans for Sunday School. I listen to my body and worry if I dressed appropriately for the weather.
I also love the physical challenge. Though I don't often press too hard or push myself to the limits, I like trying to improve my pace, run longer distances, and pile up miles day after day, week after week. In the I-climbed-the-mountain-because-it-was-there category, I like the challenge of training for a marathon simply because the 26.2 miles are there, taunting me to run them. I get my butt kicked by long training runs … and then the next week I tack another mile on to my long run, just to stick it to the run from the week before.
I love to run, simply for the space, the adrenelin, the fitness, and the feel-good it gives me. Not the deepest words I've ever posted on this blog, but perhaps the better things in life aren't always honest or deep … simply great experiences that causes one to give thanks to God.
Oops. There I went, drawing God into this after all. But somehow, even if my eyes aren't entirely open to seeing it in theological clarity, I think He was there the whole time.
"Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." – Hebrews 12:1-2