About 10 years ago, I became a runner. Before that, exercise was only an intermittent interest, a short jog here and there, usually part of a grand plan to “get in shape” that never became reality. But I noticed my 40th birthday creeping closer and closer, and I was in no shape to outrun the chomping teeth of time. Even more significantly, I took a look at my four young children and decided to increase the odds of sticking around as long as possible.
The first few months were grueling, more mentally than physically. My delusional self-image was that I was still twenty years old, an age when I had some scant leftover athleticism on loan from my high-school days. Without realizing it, though, I had become a mushy middle-aged dude who couldn’t easily jog to the end of the street.
I’m doing much better now. I’m no fleet-footed paragon of fitness, but I think by most generous definitions, I can be called a runner.
Although I’ve learned much about running, I’m in no way qualified to give expert athletic advice. But I’ve learned some useful lessons from running over the last 10 years that I think I’m qualified to pass along. And it seems to me that each one contains some seed of wisdom about life in general and spirituality in particular.
So here’s my list of 11 spiritual lessons I’ve learned from running. I hope one or two will connect with you and offer some insight into your own life circumstances.
- Pace yourself, especially at the beginning, and walk whenever you need to.
- You’re not racing against anyone else.
- Don’t judge a run by the first mile, and never decide to end early while running uphill.
- Some people who look fast are slow. Some people who look slow are fast. And how anyone looks doesn’t matter anyway.
- Keep alert for things that might hit you, trip you, or bite you.
- Sometimes a gentle breeze carries the delightful fragrance of sweet olive. Sometimes it’s trash pick-up day, and the humidity reeks of rotting crawfish shells. (My Louisiana friends will understand this. For those of you unfamiliar with the offensive aroma of 3-day-old crawfish debris, substitute your own regionally distinct garbage.)
- Don’t ignore pain. Relish pleasure.
- Never skimp on shoes. What comes between you and the pavement makes all the difference.
- Expensive gear doesn’t make you a better runner. Good gear sometimes helps. And never skimp on shoes.
- Run with music. Run in silence. Run with people. Run alone.
- If you don’t feel like running, at least go outside and walk. Just keep moving forward.
Each one of these, it seems to me, could form the chapter of a book, and perhaps I’ll run with that later. For now, though, make your own connections. Maybe a few might be as insightful for you and they have been for me. What do you think? Does something ring true with your own experience? You may or may not be a runner. Either is fine. But do a few of these lessons from running connect with where you are right now in your run through life?
May you keep moving forward.