Run no. 51 – The First 50



Run No. 51     Distance: 4.53 miles   (7.3 km)          Time: 43’33””  (PB 38’ 28”)

Well that’s the first 50 runs completed since I got back to running. Feels like an achievement and I hope it’s a psychological milestone.

In Scottish mountaineering circles there is an activity called ‘Munro Bagging’. It consists of climbing all of the mountains over 3,000 feet and is named after the man, Sir Hugh MUNRO, who compiled the first list about a hundred years ago. There are almost 300 of them and the most serious challenge is to climb them all in a single calendar year.

There is a phenomenon called ‘the first 50’; which describes the observation that most people who climb 50 Munros, go on to climb them all; it is a sort of psychological ‘point of no return’.

I am no psychologist, but I can imagine several reasons as to why this number might be significant:

  • by this point a serious personal investment in the goal has been made,
  • there will be a growing conviction that the task is achievable,
  • there will be a growing sense of pride in accomplishment.

All the above might well serve to focus the mind, body and spirit and give drive and enthusiasm for the completion of the remainder of the task ahead.

I am caused to wonder is there an equivalent milestone for the spiritual life? Is there a point at which we are almost certain to end well, to continue the race, to stay the course?

I’m afraid that I think the answer is probably ‘No’.

I think there is an inherent fragility in the life of faith and at almost every moment there is the possibility of being knocked off course, tripped up, losing our way.

C.S. Lewis was shocked by the realisation that even in a person’s own home they are not safe from spiritual lapses, he reflected that this reality imposes upon the Christian disciple a constant state of self-awareness and concentration;

There is nowhere this side of heaven where we may lay the reins on the horse’s neck, it will never be lawful simply to be ‘ourselves’, until ‘ourselves’ have become sons of God.[1]

Research on spiritual leaders, both historical and contemporary, reveals the sobering fact that only a third of those who start well with Christ, finish well with Christ.[2]

Almost anything can trip a person up, the monastic disciplines regarding money, sex and power still describe the way people fail and fall.

I worked out that in my average run I take about 6,500 steps. Each of those is a potential for tripping and falling.

As we run through life, similarly opportunities abound for mishap.

All of which should make the spiritual person humble, drive them to their knees, and draw them to the cross, the one place in the universe where strength can be sought and found in time of trouble, failure can be confessed and forgiven, the mutual support and encouragement of fellow pilgrims shared.

The first 50 is a good beginning, but we in the spiritual life we don’t celebrate beginnings, we celebrate completions.


[1] C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Part iii, The sermon and the Lunch, paras 5-9, 1945

[2] J. Robert CLINTON & Paul D. STANLEY, Connecting, Colarado: Navpress, 1992, pp213ff,