The Spiritual Discipline of Running
In three weeks I will be running a marathon here in Champaign. It will be the conclusion of my sixth month struggle to get back into running. I ran competitively from 5th grade through high school and enjoyed the camaraderie of cross country and track. But when I entered college I wanted to immerse myself in dorm life instead of running, so I stopped my running career. Now, almost 14 years later, I am once again ready to call myself a runner again. I am addicted to running and now it is actually more of a spiritual discipline than a physical pursuit.
I think there is a reason that Paul talks about following Christ using the analogy of a race. He writes to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Following Christ is not a sprint but a marathon. Running a marathon takes an immense amount of training. It demands that a person thinks through everything from what they are eating to what undergarments prevent chafing. It takes commitment. There are days when the last thing I wanted to do was lace up my shoes and go out into the frigid, windy Illinois weather. But if I wanted to complete the marathon I had to stay committed to my training schedule. I also found out that running 16 miles is much better when you are running with someone else. The connection between running and following Christ are so numerous.
I have noticed that staying committed to my running schedule has helped me develop self-discipline in other areas of my life. It is not just training my body for the marathon but training my mind and soul for enduring temptation and trials. It is in this way that running has truly become a spiritual discipline.
Tomorrow I have my last big training milestone: a 20 mile run. A fellow dad and I are running together because if I attempted this on my own I would give up by mile ten. Then after that huge training run it is on to tapering before the big race on April 30. People say that running marathons is addictive and I am beginning to sense that. I am just glad that I have once again caught the running bug and am seeing the spiritual discipline of running impact other areas of my life.