Run no. 53 – Running and the Power of Belief

Belief sign with a beautiful day

Run No. 53         Distance: 4.53 miles     (7.3 km)               Time: 42’32””   (PB 38’ 28”)

I came across some interesting research today. It showed that people who regularly experience high levels of stress are 43% more likely to die in a three year period that those who experience no stress.

Not that surprising perhaps, until you learn that this statistic is only true of people who believe stress to be bad for them.

People who do not believe that stress is harmful show no increased risk of death, even when they live with high levels of stress.[1]

I found that rather amazing!

There has always been the recognition of the power of positive thinking, but it appears that the reverse is also true.

Negative thinking can kill you.

If we apply that to slightly less than life-and-death activity of running the question becomes, what negative expectations do we carry with us and how might they affect us?

Do we run carrying the expectation of injury, hard work, breathlessness, and pain?

What if we didn’t?

To take things one step further, what if we were to interpret the uncomfortable physical responses to the activity of running in a positive way – as the signs of our body accustoming itself to a new level of performance, to fat being burned up, to cardio-vascular strengthening – would we then experience them in a different way? Can we make them our friends? And if we could what difference would this make to our performance?

St Paul seems to have practised this in his own life. He did not have a stress-free existence – ship-wrecked three times, beaten and left for dead more than once, imprisoned, betrayed etc. And yet he seemed able to take it all in his stride.

How could he cope with such difficulties and struggles? It was his conviction of God’s hand guiding and controlling his life;

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, NIV)

St Paul’s fixed belief was that God was at work in the circumstances of his life and that therefore their end result must ultimately be good. So he could accept them, be thankful for them, even if he could not see what that good was from his own human and limited perspective and even if the good that they led to was for others and not for himself.

St Paul’s belief as a Christian was that ultimately his future was to be with the God who loved him. Therefore, even the ultimate stress raiser – death – loses its power. Far from being the ultimate enemy, death now becomes the greatest friend, for it ushers us into the full presence of the God who has loved us our whole lives.

Perhaps this is why people of faith cope better with the stresses of everyday life, because they certainly do. A thousand studies appraising the effects of prayer on health have shown that:

  • Hospitalized people who never attended church have an average stay of three times longer than people who attend regularly.
  • Heart patients were 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not practice a religion.
  • Elderly people who never or rarely attended church had a stroke rate double that of people who attended regularly.
  • People who are more religious tend to become depressed less often. When they do become depressed, they recover more quickly.[2]

Running and exercise are proven to be good for health and longevity, but if you pray while you are running you will probably do even better!




[2] Harold Koenig, M.D., Handbook of Religion and Health