The spirituality of the Sunday run

spirituality

There is nothing intrinsically holy about a “16 Weeks to Marathon” spreadsheet, GPS watches or the neon accents of running shoes.

But, for a certain class of runners, there is no denying the spirituality of the long run.

There are no pews, steeples or chapels in this church.

It is a social movement complete with a hashtag.

While it lacks specific ties to Christianity, “the Church of the Long Run,” as it is sometimes called, has become an important practice for Christians across denominations.

For a certain class of runners, there is no denying the spirituality of the long run.

Long runs, often done on weekends, have long been a mainstay of training programs from 5Ks to ultramarathons.

Athletes build endurance by going long as they work toward their race goal.

Yet for many, it often doubles as a spiritual experience featuring many aspects of prayer—a chance to quiet the mind, test personal limits and suffer on behalf of a mission.

“I often will be able to pray while I’m running because of that very peaceful experience of the very fluid moving of your body,” said Sister Stephanie Baliga of Chicago, a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist.

Sister Baliga raced for the University of Illinois and has since completed eight marathons.

“You live these experiences of runner’s high and this experience with connecting to God through the natural world that you sometimes feel when running,” she said.

“[It is] a very spiritual and strong experience.”

Running alone can create an inner stillness, a prayerful, reflective experience different from playing team sports.

Running without music, and especially in nature, is an excellent way to connect with God, Sister Baliga said.

Running alone can create an inner stillness, a prayerful, reflective experience different from playing team sports.

The discipline required to train body and mind to run long mirrors the kind of training St. Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.

“They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

In Dalton, Ga., Grove Level Baptist Church brought running and the Bible together.

The church started a “Run For God” program, which paired 12 weeks of training for a local 5K with Bible study.

Gaye Coker enlisted with her husband Shannon in 2010.

The couple was struggling with their faith because of an ongoing family issue, she said. “The strength and endurance Shannon and I have gained through this Run for God journey is not only physical but a spiritual relationship,” Ms. Coker said.

“We are healthier physically, yes, but more important we are healthier spiritually.” Continue reading

  • Image: Hawkes Bay Marathon

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