Run no. 46 and 47 – The importance of distance markers

 

5 Km

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 42’13””  (PB 38’ 28”)

When running longer distances it is important to know where you are in your run.

At the various points you are liable to certain things:

At the start, particularly in a race, the adrenalin is pumping and you are apt to go off too fast, burning up too much energy too soon, which will cause you to struggle in the later stages.

In the mid-point you can lose focus and unwittingly slow down. You need to know where your body is in regard to any ‘second-wind’ effect.

Towards the end you need to know how your body is doing and how far the finish line is, so you can time any final ‘push’.

In a similar fashion our earthly life is often compared to a spiritual race – a brief period of sentient existence where we are invited to recognize the love of God that surrounds us; a love that is expressed in the beauty of what God has made and also, supremely, in the person of Jesus. We must then each choose what response we make to that love, but a positive response ushers us into a new level of existence;

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.[1]

As in long distance running it is important for us to know where we are in the race of life.

Birth – We are alive and in the process of becoming, of actualising our divinely gifted potential. We learn about the world and ourselves.

Childhood – We are growing, developing. Through the experience of family we learn about love, which enables us to start to imagine what God might be like – our heavenly Father/Mother. We explore, we are in awe of wonder and beauty – all of which point us to God.

Adolescence/Adulthood – We establish our own identity, we choose who we are and decide what we will be. We consider the meaning of our existence; we start to consider what a successful life might mean. We set our values, our goals, and what means we are prepared to use to attain them; will we reject or accept the boundaries God places upon us?

Marriage – We experience human love in all its wonder. We decide whether to give and receive love, whether to work at cherishing and protecting it. We experience a deeper understanding of the depths of love and glimpse a new dimension of the love God has for us.

Parenthood – We experience for ourselves the powerful nature of fatherhood/motherhood, we get a new insight into the love of our perfect heavenly Father, and we learn something of the cost that God the Father was willing to pay when Jesus died for us at Calvary.

Middle-Age – We become increasingly aware of our mortality. We realise that our earthly existence is limited and we start to examine how we have lived. Have we lived well? Is there much that we still need to do?  What changes do we need to make that we might consider our lives to have been fulfilled?

Old-Age – We prepare to die. We set ourselves to finish well; we prioritise the really important and we let go of the inessential. We take pleasure where we find it, we celebrate the good that our lives have brought us; we look forward to the next stage of our adventure with Jesus.

Each of these stages in our ‘run of life’ has its own opportunities, dangers, and challenges. It is good to know where we are, it is good to know where we are going, it is good to prepare ourselves to face what comes next.

[1] John 17:3 NIV


Run no. 45 – The blessing of an unknown route

unknown

Distance: ?? miles      Time: 24’33”

It has been very rainy the last 24 hours and my usual route was highly likely to be waterlogged, so I decided to run some loops around the streets nearby. THis was something I had never done before.

As I ran up my street for the first time I experienced the rather steep rise at the end. Although only short it was quite tough and left me struggling for breath.

I ran on going round in a loop.

As I started the third circuit I realised how much I detested knowing exactly where the climbs were, the places where it was going to hurt. Somehow knowing exactly where they were and feeling the dread rising as they approached made it a deeply unpleasant experience.

It struck me that it is a great blessing in life not to know what is in front of us; to not have to live in dread and fear of certain disaster.

The future is always unknown and as such to be considered as redolent of possibility and hope.

Certainly disaster and mishap will most probably fall upon us at some point – that is the nature of our existence, but that possibility needn’t rob us of our joy in the present and our hope for the future.

Of course it is in exactly this area that Christian faith most strongly shines. It is both realistic about the reality of earthly life with its admixture of joys and sorrows, and strongly, unbreakably optimistic, in the light of eternity.

Paradoxically, it is the freedom this faith gives to not value our life in this world too highly, that enables us to live it fully; to risk; to dare; to challenge; to invest our energies in a different, fuller, brighter, eternal future.

Although we cannot and do not know the details of our earthly future (thank God!), we do know the quality, if not the detail, of our eternal future; and the Father who loves us, knows both.

‘all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be’

(Psalm 139:16)

 

 


Run no. 44 – Too busy not to run

TooBusy

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 41’51”   (PB 38’ 28”)

When our schedule is tight, running is often the thing we are tempted to drop out of our day. Surely that’s sensible right? I mean running is more or less a self-indulgent luxury; taking an hour to go off and do something completely unproductive. Shouldn’t this be the first thing to go?

Actually I am less and less sure that this is the case.

It used to be that the working day was naturally limited, either by daylight, by the availability of resources, by physical exhaustion, etc. However in our technologically advanced, information age, this is no longer the case.

Also the amount of work we could theoretically do on many of our given tasks has now become infinite.

To give a personal example; I do research from time to time. It used to be the case that a person had a finite set of resource material – their own library, a university library, a national library etc. But now as more and more material becomes available online, the available resources are practically limitless. Which means that I could theoretically do research on a single subject for the rest of my life and never achieve an exhaustive grasp of it. There would always be another book on the subject I could read, another academic paper, another poem etc.

So in the information age our work is now both unceasing and infinite.

It flow in to our ‘In-Trays’ at an ever-increasing rate and many of the tasks we are given could, in theory, occupy us for a lifetime.

If you do more work, you will only be rewarded with more work to do. It is a vicious spiral, which spins ever more quickly.

So, if I’m busy, then perhaps taking an hour to go running is the last thing I should drop. Perhaps it is exactly when I am really busy, that I most need to go running?

St François de SALES wrote this advice to his monks:

Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy.

Then a full hour is needed.

Which expresses a deep, and counter-intuitive truth; it is the times of peak busyness that we most need to find the energy, focus, inspiration that we get from spiritual activity; the divine strength that comes to us when we turn away from a preoccupation with our little selves and our little lives, and open ourselves up to God and to the real meaning of our existence; a relationship with Him.

Too busy to run – you’re too busy not to run.

 

 

 

 

 


Run no. 43 – Running is Freedom

runningfree

Distance: 4.53 miles  Time: 41’04”   (PB 38’ 28”)

It struck me today how much freedom running gives me.

There is the physical sense of freedom; particularly for those of us lucky enough to be able to run in the countryside. It is great to be able to run through an open landscape, with clear views to the horizon; a real sense of freedom.

There is another freedom running gives me. I don’t listen to music when running. This was something I could never do during the past 14 years when I lived in rural France.

There, running along narrow country roads, you were highly likely to meet farm machinery taking up the whole road and with various spikey and death-dealing implements hanging off it in all directions (sometimes even falling off it!). You had to stay alert with your ears open and be ready to move onto the verge at any moment! So I got out of the habit of listening to music, and actually I now prefer to run in silence. I find it gives me freedom to think. My mind can wander, thoughts can arise, inspiration can come, and solutions can present themselves… all because my mind is free.

There is also the freedom from interruption. The forty or so minutes that I usually run for are completely free from ‘phone calls, texts, social media updates etc. Just an ‘empty’ space in my day. Feels like freedom!

Mobiles ‘phones are great and I like much of what they enable me to do, but they are also an insidious life-controller, unless you can make the technology your servant and not your master.

I remember hearing a man say that if there is any object in your life that you couldn’t give away if God called you to do so, then you don’t own it, it owns you.

I wonder if there isn’t a similar aphorism one could create about mobile ‘phones? The other evening I was watching a film with my wife. Just before the end of the film my mobile beeped. We had had a minor family crisis during the day and a friend was emailing me with some information that might be helpful – information for me to forward to one of my sons.

I didn’t need to forward the email then and there, half an hour wouldn’t have changed anything, I could even have done it the next morning. But I picked up my ‘phone and did it straight away.

I had just finished sending the email as the final credits started to roll. After watching an hour and fifty minutes of the film, I had missed the big ending! I was somewhat mumpy!

It was no-one’s fault but my own. Although I tried hard to blame my wife! The insidious life-controlling mobile had won and had ruined my evening. Two hours I would never get back.

Which is why running, with its enforced absence from ‘phones and other ‘stuff’ is really valuable. Perhaps more so than at any time in human history as we are pushed insidiously to do more and more, without being given the times and space to consider whether it is actually worth doing in the first place.

I am more and more convinced of the spiritual value of running as I see the benefits that it brings to my life.

Keep running. Keep running with God.


Run no. 42 – The Importance of Club Uniforms

athletic uniforms

 

 

Distance: 4.53 miles  Time: 43’07”   (PB 38’ 28”)

When out running you see people in club kit. The name of the club proudly emblazoned on the chest. You notice that this shared uniform enables club members to recognise each other, you hear the ‘hellos’ and see the salutes and waves.

Of course the primary reason for a club uniform is in competition, it enables the runners of each club to be identified, particularly important in inter-club meets.

All this is the positive benefit of uniform, but some things are lost too.

The individual becomes harder to identify, their uniqueness somewhat diminished by a common kit.

As usual, I was prompted to reflect on this in spiritual terms.

The Christian faith, which I espouse, has only one goal for those who follow Jesus – transformation. A goal sometimes explained by the double metaphor of putting off the old man’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) and ‘putting on Christ’ (Romans 31:14).

The picture is of someone taking off old set of clothing and getting dressed in something new. Those who would follow Jesus are expected, commanded even, to take off the old clothes that are no longer appropriate and dress themselves with Jesus. That is to say that their thoughts, words and actions should no longer represent their old values and priorities but those of Jesus.

In order to be able to do this, followers of Jesus need to know what Jesus said about Himself, about them, and what He commands His disciples to do. There is only one source for this information and that is the Bible – our record of the life of Jesus, the message of Jesus and the response made to that message by those who knew Him best.

It is only as people get to grips with this that they can start to discard ‘clothing’ that doesn’t fit with their new identity, and ‘dress’ their lives and actions with ‘clothing’ that looks like Jesus.

Whilst this process certainly involves the loss of some elements from our lives, and the embracing of a common uniform, this does not undermine individuality.

It is like a football team. At the presentation most players are fairly indistinguishable, their size and stature fairly similar. However when they start to play their individual styles, abilities, tricks and techniques, will be expressed.

In ‘putting on Christ’ we do not lose our individuality, rather we are freed up to express that individuality in a new and fuller way.