How Running Is Saving My Soul

A couple of months ago, I decided (once again) that I was going to take up running. It was a decision that I had made countless times before as I fantasized about doing 5ks, 10ks, and even triathlons. I laced up my casual-style shoes and went jogging in the park near my home. The next day as I got out of bed, a sharp pain shot through my right foot. It was if a bit of living electricity had crawled in there and decided it was going flip that house. We had a shoot, so I spent all day hobbling around set with people asking if I was okay. I enjoyed the attention, but at the same time blowing it off to appear indifferent to the pain. I told myself I wasn’t allowed to go running again until I could buy proper shoes. Money was tight, so it would be another month or so before I could justify buying them.

In the meantime I started walking – everywhere. I started leaving my car at work and taking public transportation. By not having my car at home, it forced me to walk to places like the bank and grocery store, which were only a few blocks away, but previously were locations that I might have driven to on my way somewhere else. I soon discovered that walking everywhere was not only making me feel better physically, but spiritually as well. Free from the stress of traffic I found myself connecting with the city more. I started to notice just how many trees were packed into the spaces between the concrete and how many squirrels lived in the trees. I used the time while walking to meditate on whatever was concerning me at that moment.

After a month or so, I bought some cheap running shoes from Target and took off through the park. I had downloaded a couch-to-5k running podcast and had figured that I probably was on the level of week 8 of the 9-week program. I was a pretty fit guy after all, right?

Only 10 minutes into the run, I realized that I was in over my head. I came home and downloaded the week 1 episode.

And here is the point where I turn all this into a precarious metaphor for the Gospel.

For me, the Gospel is like running. I have all these big dreams of the things I can accomplish and the good it will do, but traditionally I throw myself in with such force that I usually end up exhausted, bruised, and with a desire to vomit. I would become discouraged and lay on the couch to watch tv. But this time, running (the Gospel, stick with me, here) has been different than every other attempt at commitment. I’ve forced myself to go slowly. I no longer constantly focus on running triathlons, but just enjoy the improved health I feel. If it leads to a triathlon, great. If not, whatever. In the Gospel, I still have some very important questions that I’ve put off answering until later. I’m just enjoying the improved spiritual health that I’ve experienced. Interestingly, one or two of those unanswerable questions has “accidentally” made themselves less incomprehensible….

Even in high school, I was never the fastest runner. In fact, I was almost always near the back of the group, but as the top one or two would start to falter, I would keep going. My legs would burn and I my pace would slow to an almost-walk, but I would keep going. You see, I am an endurance runner. I’ve never been a sprinter and probably never will be, but after many bright stars have fallen to the earth in a flash of burning light, you’ll still hear my rhythmic breathing in the dark, slowly moving forward.

5 thoughts on “How Running Is Saving My Soul

  1. Cliff Post author

    Haha! No problem. It is called “Podcasts For Running“. It is in the iTunes podcast directory under the same name. The guy does a good job of telling when to run, not run, etc. :-)

  2. M

    Your post reminds me of what President Hinckley said at one point in time that most people grow up to be just people. I think lots of times we have these huge aspirations in Mormon culture of how we’re going to make this huge contribution to the good of humanity and to the world. We’re encouraged to aim high, but when we don’t make it, the disappointment can be bitter. I think one of the hardest lessons to learn is to accept that, for most of us, our contributions will not seem all that important in the long run. However, we can do our best to improve the lives of individuals around us and learn to find value in those small things and hope that they contribute meaningfully to God’s purposes.

  3. JT

    You may have caught on that I really enjoy a good line, so I loved the timing of:

    I think it’s impossible to grow up in the church and not see the possible metaphors in just about anything.

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