A while back, someone suggested to me that perhaps my running was a little excessive and that my 20–mile fun runs were maybe indicative that I was attempting to “run away” from something. I thanked the person for their concern and told them I would think about what they had said. And I did. I began thinking about the way I think about running. On a long run a few weeks later, I remember asking God, “Is this my god? Do I worship running?”
I heard the response loud and clear (no, not audible, don’t worry)… “Running is not your god. Running creates a sanctuary where you feel safe to explore your thoughts, dreams, fears, and to worship your God in the most authentic way you know how.”
I never went back to the person to tell them what I had discovered. I didn’t feel the need to. Once I realized what it was about running that made me long to spend countless hours doing it, I didn’t feel the need to justify it to anyone. You see, I believe our bodies are made to run. Everything about our human design suggests that we were created with the ability to run long distances—more so than any other animal.
What we have now, it 2011, is this idea that running is punishment. Punishment for eating too many cookies. Punishment for putting on weight. Punishment for being late to practice. To find joy in running seems peculiar to those who view it as punishment. If you look at running as punishment, then people who choose to run for 3,4,10,24 hours at a time are going to appear a little wacky—maybe even masochistic. But if you look at running as something different, something our bodies were created to do, maybe you’ll see something different.
When I am running, especially when I’m running long, the space around me and in me is sacred. The rhythm of my feet meeting the earth, the steady strong heartbeat in my chest, and the freedom in my mind are like nothing I experience in any other activity. I can cry, I can laugh. I can sing, I can pray. It’s all good in this space. It washes away any self-doubt, any anxiety about the future. I find new and creative ideas and the confidence to execute them. I feel safe to express my deepest emotions to God—anger, gratitude, love, fear—its here that it all unravels and I’m met with grace and peace. Masochisms? Excessive? Avoidance? Quite the opposite.