Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: unrecorded (PB 38’ 38”)
Today was my first run for 4 months.
I knew it was going to be hard and to hurt.
I didn’t time myself, as the objective was to see if I could still run 4.53 miles without stopping – I could, but only with great difficulty.
In my running loop I passed a lady walking her dog and gave my usual greeting “Good morning, God bless”. As I passed her again on the return part she shouted out an encouragement, “You’re nearly there!”
I replied “This is my first run for 4 months; stupid idea!”
She shouted back, “You won’t think that later!”
Which made me think.
Of course she was right.
You finish your run and the endorphin kick hits you – your body’s self-reward mechanism for your having done exercise.
You also experience the warm glow of satisfaction that you can still run, when many of your friends of the same age can’t.
You get the sense of righteousness that in that doing exercise you are protecting your body against 30 different types of cancer.
That helped me – lungs afire, heavy-legged, and uncomfortably hot. That reminder of the good that was to come got me through the final third of my run.
This reminded me that the spiritual ‘race’ is no different.
St Paul described his approach in the following way:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
None of the things which foster our spiritual life – prayer, engagement with the Bible, attendance at a worshipping community, serving others and sharing with them, the de-centring of my own wants and needs, giving God control of my life – are easy. They never become easy. They are always costly and challenging and go against our nature.
The only reason that we will embrace them is the hope of where they lead, to goal to which they can take us.
What s that goal? Well God is His own reward – He has nothing better to offer us than Himself. The more we embrace the disciplines of the spiritual life, the more God will reveal Himself to us and in us.
Recently I have had a powerful reminder of the latter.
A man I know has recently become a monk. He still lives in the same village, he still carries out a full-time job, but he lives according to the monastic rule of life and he lives to serve God and his community.
He rises at 3:45 to spend 3 hours in prayer and meditation. He stops every three hours during the working day to pray the monastic offices.
The change I have seen in him over the past year has been dramatic. There is a presence in him, a peace, and an authority. Just to be with him is to experience God.
Obviously we are not all called to be monks, but we are all called to be in relationship with God, and we are all capable of it.
All it takes is discipline.
All that will sustain it as we experience the pain and challenge is the knowledge of where this leads us – to a deeper encounter with that being who is all good, all wise, all love, all power, all majesty.
I think that this should motivate me more.
Out at 8 a.m. in the sunshine ran to Watermeads Park and around a few of the lakes – mostly because I got lost. Total time 44 minutes, total distance unknown.
I am not a natural athlete. Not for me a gazelle-like floating across the ground. My running gait has a more rustic look about it, at once expressing purposefulness and much pain.
As I plod painfully along, lungs on fire and lack of blood to the brain causing tunnel vision to impinge on my view ahead, one has the impression that one must be going quite quickly. Sadly, this is not actually the case.
This morning as I approached the entrance to Watermeads Park an old decrepit old lady hove into view. She was dressed head to toe in lycra and jogging along the path ahead of me. She had the most unusual gait. Taking tiny steps with a stride of about 6 inches and slightly lurching to one side. My immediate impression was that perhaps she had suffered a stroke at some point and I prayed “God bless her” and had warm feelings towards her for her courage and never-say-die spirit. At least she’s still out there, still running. She might not be going fast but still she’s going! Good for her!
I thought “I’ll just speed around her” only to discover that I was almost unable to catch her. Which meant that this ancient, decrepit, stroke-survivor with a 6 inch stride pattern was actually running at about the same speed as me.
Shocked to my core I put a spurt on and gradually, painfully slowly, I drew level.
As I passed her I noticed that she had the look of a well-preserved Egyptian mummy and must have been well into her 70s, which further rubbed salt into the open wound of my self-regard.
As I passed her I did what runners always do on passing another runner. You lift up your head, throw your chest out, slow you wracking respiration and lift up your knees so you are prancing like a demented springbok. As you pass them you throw out a cheery “Good fun isn’t it! A ha!”.
Of course the down side of this most obvious deception and one-upmanship is that you are bound to keep it up until you get out of sight. Which when your speed differential is only in the third decimal place, takes some time.
I struggled manfully on, heart bursting in my chest, lungs a-fire and legs screaming in agony, desperate for the next bend in the road. Finally, as my tunnel vision reduced to a pin prick I saw the Shangri-La of a corner ahead, managed to make it around it before experiencing total physical collapse.
As I criss-crossed Watermeads getting lost and rather annoyed in the process, I happened to pass Decrepit Woman several times. Indeed at one point she was behind me. It felt rather like one of those zombie horror films when these creatures who are only capable of the most painfully difficult shuffle, yet somehow seem to be able to keep pace with you, and even catch up with you, no matter how fast you run.
I was starting to get a bit panicky and was almost about to grab a stick and drive it through her unbeating heart, crying “Die foul creature of the night!” When suddenly she disappeared. Spooky or what?
After the run I definitely got the endorphin kick – sadly the effect was mitigated by a companion feeling of sheer total exhaustion.
Fit yet? Not fooling anybody!
It is on!
After a break from running for about a year – don’t know why, other than my wife and I had started to walk more, so running seemed a bit superfluous. Oh and the fact that it hurts and takes effort!
Having stopped for so long, starting again was really hard.
I thought about it for weeks, even months.
I convinced myself that I should.
I spoke to friends saying I thought I was going to.
I imagined running again.
But actually going out on that first run was hard.
All sorts of fears, questions, dread were raised in my mind.
All of which speaks strongly about the power of rhythm in a human life.
Just doing something on a regular basis, builds momentum, which really helps you to keep going.
Stopping. Or even just encountering a climb, pausing to cross the road; all of these break the rhythm and make restarting 10 times harder.
I’m pretty convinced that this applies in the spiritual realm too.
Spiritual practices – prayer, meditation, going to church etc. all benefit from the power of rhythm, all of them are so much harder to re-connect with after a break.
But today was my first run for about a year.
26’22” out to Watermeads docks and back.
It was less painful than I had feared it might be.
Although, tomorrow may be a different story!
But it shows that re-engagement is possible.
And as in the physical, so in the spiritual. At least that’s what I believe.
Dare yourself to do it!