I put lace up my shoes and put on my hat. Stretch for a minute or two and then I’m out the door.
I’m off for a run.
It used to be that I only ran on a treadmill at the gym. It was easy because I could stare at that little screen and it would tell me my pace, my distance and calories burned. I could watch the time tick away. I could distract myself with the TV. There’s a built-in shock absorption system to make it gentler on my body. I didn’t have to really think about what I was doing.
Then I started running outside and a new world opened up to me. I began to leave my iPod at home so I could enjoy the only quiet time I had in my day. And I tuned in to what I was doing…hearing my breathing and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. The birds singing; the woodpeckers making homes for themselves in the distance. Seeing caterpillars meandering along the road. Squirrels scampering in the woods and baby chipmunks playing hide-and-seek. Autumn leaves gently falling to the ground. A tiny creek winding its way through the ground. Everything is alive.
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
When running outside, my goal used to be to finish as soon as possible; to run as fast as I could. But soon my goals changed. I wanted to really enjoy the run.
food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.”
And I wanted to be able to run the hills without stopping.
Hills were difficult. I would focus on them and get overwhelmed by their size before I even got to the base. I would make it a few feet up and then just give up and walk. And then I’d beat myself up for walking.
I went running with a local running group and a multi-marathoner volunteered a key piece of advice: “The key to running hills is this: keep your head down and let the bill of your hat block your view. Shorten your stride, but really pump your arms. By keeping your arms pumped faster than your stride, you will have momentum to make it up the hill much easier.”
There are some days when I have to run at the gym on a treadmill — days when the weather is bad, or if I go too late to be outdoors. And the treadmill is great. It keeps me on track. I can determine when I want hills and for how long. I can be distracted if I want to be. I can just stop and go home if I get too worn out.
But running outside is more challenging. I can’t control the hills. They come and I have to endure them. I can’t just stop. I can turn around, but still have to make it all the way back. The pavement is harder on my body; it takes more endurance. The only thing I can control is my pace.
My Christian life is like running in a lot of ways. I train on the the treadmill (church). And they will pray for me. And I can stare at the screens and they will tell me what to sing and when to raise my hands in worship. I learn about how far I’ve come, how much spiritual muscle I’ve developed. I definitely need the treadmill. Especially when the storms are bad; when I need training to run faster; when I know it will keep the pace for me. It provides shock absorption for the ups and downs that are unavoidable.
But when I’m out there running on the road, that’s real life. It’s my time to see if the treadmill training took effect. I alone determine what words make up my prayers. I alone select the songs and what to sing. I raise my hands in worship all on my own.
I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.
Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
(1 Corinthians 9:26-27)
I pace myself going down hills and on the flat stretches; I’ll need strength for the hills, because I know they’re coming. I can’t determine when they start and when they end. All I can do is set my face like flint; look not to the right or to the left…just focus on the step right in front of me. And I have shorten my stride…taking baby steps if I need to. And I pump my arms faster to gain momentum…praising and praying and worshipping…so I can make it to the top of the hill. And if I have to walk instead of run, I give myself grace. Because the important thing is that I Did. Not. Stop.
I keep going.
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”