Monday, March 31, 2014

Running: A Spiritual Journey

I am not sure of your story, but running has always been spiritual for me.  The commitment of pushing the body beyond comfort was obviously more than just something anyone does for fun.

In the summer of 1998 I learned to love running on the empty Memphis streets at 4 o'clock in the morning.  Something about it fused with me deep inside my spirit.

During the fall of 1998 I was attempting to discern who I was after running had been so utterly wrenched from my grips.  As a tattered and torn mess my life was difficult to recognize in the absence of running.

In the aftermath of this mess and in the winter of 1998 I embraced a life-changing relationship with God in an attempt to restore a disoriented and disturbed spirit.

Since that December so long ago, the journey to re-introduce running into this new life has been entirely and fantastically spiritual.  The surgery.  The lifelong friendships.  The attempts to use running as a tool for the benefit of others.  The places it has taken me.  The pursuit of a bodily summit.  Education.  A wife.

What would my life look like if running had never been an integral part of forming who I am as a person?  It is truly impossible to know just how drastically different everything would be.

Now that I am waylaid again as I wait for my body to heal, it is my spirit that must learn patience.  Patience to learn how to define itself as this vessel that contains it puts the pieces back together.  Patience in loving life beyond running once again.

The body is healing, I think.  It is my hope I will be out there running fairly soon.  It's been just around a month since my mountain marathon and close to three months since my knee started bothering me.

I put a video together of shots taken on my iPhone during the run.  At the time this song by Mumford and Sons, "Hopeless Wanderer," felt appropriate.  As I watch now I feel as though it somehow taps into my spirit and how running has become part of what connects me to the Holy Other.

When this body is done running it will all be alright.  My spirit will continue to run even when my legs have given out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Black Dog is Lingering

Well as it turns out "niggles" can turn into full fledged injuries.  Runners are notorious for being pretty terrible at coping with the inability to run - I am no better.  As I sit here writing a good two weeks after the run where my knee finally said, "Hey, you really should stop running!"  In all fairness my knee had been complaining loudly for some time and I knew I was pushing it way too far... but I wanted to run.  I ran the mountain marathon knowing I shouldn't.  Two days later I couldn't take it anymore and absolutely had to go run.  That was the day I knew I was done for a while.  I have been resisting the overwhelming urge to run everyday since.

The Black Dog is an ancient symbol for depression.  I found this description online - "an ever-present companion, lurking in the shadows just out of sight, growling, vaguely menacing, always on the alert; sinister and unpredictable, capable of overwhelming you at any moment" (pretty interesting and worth a read).  My first major injury entering college was my first encounter with said black dog.  Since then I have always struggled to keep running in the proper balance with my life so as to never see the black dog again,  a contest which I have proven both good and bad at in various times.  The hardest part for me is a mix of the physical and spiritual joy I receive from running - the physical from endorphins and such, the spiritual from a deep connection I feel with God when I run.

The black dog lurks nearby, I can sense him - no, I smell him.  The article quoted above mentions at the end that the black dog ultimately is a companion that needs to be left behind.  He is a companion we cannot afford to keep.  It is not for me to bring the black dog in, give him a bath, and name him.  No!  I will remind myself of the other joys I have in life.  I will leave the black dog behind.  

My ultra running buddy +Benjamin Winrow has been exposing me to all sorts of wonderful running videos.  This video on Anna Frost really touched me.  Not only does it perfectly speak to this post but watching it was like glimpsing into my own past.  Her words strike not just one chord with my heart but echo almost perfectly exactly how I felt my freshman year of college when I was a broken runner.  Please take a moment to watch it as it will completely move you!
This is the link to her blog if you'd like to hear more about her running: