Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Running Church Experience...

(Shot taken on the trek to see Hardman's Hole - deepest
natural hole in New Zealand.  Beautiful scenery)
We are all defined by many different terms, though often misinterpreted or at least colored through a lens we do not always like, by those who hear the labels attached to our identity as a person.  It is part of what our stories take on as we move through our lives, connecting to ideas, activities, people, and organizations.

Running is one of these defining labels in my life.  I am a runner, which holds with it certain defining characteristics in my eyes and in the eyes of others.  At times this is beneficial as people think of me as fit or capable of certain physical feats, which may or may not be true depending on my physical shape at the time.  There are other moments when it holds some form of negative connotation in the minds of others.  While I'm not aware what all these might be, it causes people to shout things, throw things, and thrust obscene gestures out of windows as they drive by a runner just out for some exercise.

Another term that defines a bigger part of who I am as a person, if that's possible, is the word "Christian."  A term with more baggage and many more positive and negative attributes in people's hearts and minds.  In a further defining, which I struggled against for years and finally gave into for many reasons, I am also defined by the word "Baptist" as I am an ordained Baptist minister.

I do not apologize for any three of these terms or the negative feelings they might drudge up in your heart, but as with everything else in my life I choose to define myself in light of these terms in my own way and my own understanding of them.  There are certainly many people who have suffered to some extent, and most likely more people who will, in respect to my life and my choices as a running Christian Baptist - for all of those folks I am certainly sorry.  I know, that while this is true, in my own struggle to discern what it means to be a running Christian Baptist many other lives have bounced off of mine and have been made the better for it - for all of those folks I give thanks.

(Shot taken on the trail to Mt. Everest - run run run run run!)
All this said, when I woke up this morning thinking of heading to a local church for a service, I decided instead to go on a run.  Not only is this in part due to Sarah working and my despising going without her (I know, I know I should still go), but on top of that I have been recently trying to find new ways to make running more of  a spiritual activity.  So I slowly worked into my mobile church experience on the run with two thoughts in my mind.

One, I had been thinking about this world and the condition of it, leading me into thinking on the overall status of humanity.  Are we born bad or innocent?  In the end maybe it doesn't matter if we are born bastards or are taught to become bastards, but we all seem to be doing the best we can in spite of my favorite quote describing the basic human condition.  Dr. Cox from the show Scrubs said in one episode to sum up his feeling of people, "we are all just bastard coated bastards with bastard filling."

Already thinking along these lines, and with a smile on my face, I decided it would be good to read a passage from the Bible before heading out on my church run.  I opened Psalms and saw a line already highlighted from a while back - "May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;" 119:41.  This led me to the second thought, which was basically, yes we are all bastard coated bastards with bastard filling, but the most basic promise we get in the Christian setting is that as believers we are no longer bastards.  Our bastard condition has been redeemed and our broken relationship has been restored.  We might still behave like bastards on occasion, but we no longer own the term.

(Shot taken on the Milford Trek in NZ - need to go back and run it)
I headed out for my run with one word overwhelming everything else in my head - joy.  Yes I was a
bastard and at times I can revert back to acting like a bastard, but in truth this part of my identity is gone.  I know my Creator and our relationship has been made whole.  It was a joyful run during which time I sang a little, chatted with some sheep and cows nearby, and spent some time in prayer.

As runners were all different, some gravitating towards mountain trails and others happy on roads 24/7. Perhaps by now, for better or worse, you might have guessed that some of the basic characteristics attributed to the words Christian or Baptist do not apply to me just as ultra running does not apply to me.  Along this thought line, what words apply to your life and what defines you as a person?

If Dr. Cox is right, we are in need of some help.  I've met a lot of folks along the run so far, some bastards and some not so much.  Today was just one of those days where the various parts of me merged and I had to write on religion and running.  I suppose it was the joy that forced me to sit down and write.  The joy of knowing I once used to be a full fledged bastard, a bastard who now has a Father/Mother/Creator.  No longer bastard filled, I'm now filled with the Spirit of God.  And though when I run I'm coated with sweat, it is no longer the bastard coated sheen in which I used to be covered.

(Shot taken from a run that works it's way up a long stretch of beach in
Oreti New Zealand)
We are all runners.  I'm just a runner who is also a believer in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of God.  This belief has qualified me to continue running now towards a different finish line and with quite different purposes.  Even when my knees are shot and my will to hit the trails long gone, I will still be running!  You might be a runner with different spiritual beliefs, or none at all.  I only say this - keep your eyes open out there and peek around at the wonders we runners see out and about.  Don't let the abuse of bastard filled bastards with bastard filling keep you from seeing possible joys, relationship, views, and maybe even God.

Keep running all you runners.  Read about running, talk about running, write about running, and all along the way keep your eyes open for the joy of running is there!

*Bryan's comment adds the video - can't believe I didn't think to add it.  So here you go!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Civil War Running: BaddRunners Reunion Tour!

(We have to utmost respect for the history of the Civil War
but let's be honest - sometime's you've got to ride the
cannon, or at least Bryan does.  Wonder what would
happen if that bad boy went off?)
Running has always permeated the depths of society.  It is deep at the core of the history of what it means to be human and what it means to try and rise above the limitations of what humanity has to offer as it tests our abilities.  During any spare time for thousands of years humans have drawn a line in the sand and said, "Go!"  But even when our pastimes cease due to the grips of war, running has still been a quiet passenger working behind the scenes, or sometimes at the forefront, as a tool not only to be grasped but often as a game changer.

One only has to watch the movie "Last of the Mohicans" to see the use of runners during the French and Indian War ("Dude, Native Americans is the preferred nomenclature").  And while sadly Paul Revere rode a horse instead of running to announce "the British are coming," the movie "The Patriot"hints at how scouts who knew the wilderness would run secret messages to the armies, often on foot.  Why would movies lie about these things?  I think I remember surely reading something about these running messengers in some history books somewhere, probably.
(In honor of the occasion I grew and then shaved my beard
into a unique facial hair style called the "Burnside."  Mim-
icking Ambrose Burnside's amazingly intense choice of
facial hair I certainly felt the part while running over the
hills surrounding Fort Donelson.)

And of all the examples of running in military history, the most infamous is Phidippedes, who's name all runners should know by heart.  It is well known by most people that Phidippedes ran from Marathon to Athens to announce their stunning and unexpected victory so the city would fight the oncoming Persians instead of surrendering.  It is said that Phidippedes then collapsed, exhausted from his run, and died there in Athens after delivering his most important message.  This has always seemed amazing and yet somewhat dramatic.  Why did he die?  Surely he ran fast but his death had to be created to make the story better.  Plenty of people run marathons all of the time without dying.  Then I found a website claiming there is more to the story!  How have I not heard this before?

(Bryan rolling through the hallowed trails
on quite a beautiful day I might add.)
It was not simply a marathon Phidippedes ran.  According to this source the days leading up to the footrace to Marathon included two other runs for our beloved "first" marathoner adding up to 280 miles of total running!  This site suggests he ran to Sparta to enlist their help, some 140 miles away up and down mountains, then ran back to Marathon, 140 miles return trip, and then marched with the Athenians to go battle against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon!  It was only then, after the 280 miles of mountainous running and fighting all day in battle, Phidippides was asked to run to Athens faster then the Persians by sea and deliver his message of victory.  No wonder the man died!

So as my family prepared to visit a Civil War site a few weeks ago, the question then became how was running involved in the +Civil War?  From what I have read it sounds as though +Stonewall Jackson was capable of moving his troops so fast from place to place they mine as well have been running (they might have been, and perhaps this is where barefoot running got it's start - too soon? Click here to read an account of how effective he was at moving troops on foot).  And while the telegraph moved faster than any man on foot could have carried a message, surely there were heated moments of battle where important information needed to reach an general before something dastardly happened.  Telegram lines get cut, horses might not be available (shot, stolen, runoff, etc), and some times a single person on foot is the only way.  I stay in shape just in case.

(Here is where the river bent past the well placed fort to
control who and what was allowed past during a time
when rivers where the highways)
In honor of this age old tradition, and mostly because we were going to a Civil War battlefield and we like to run, my brother +Bryan Baddorf  and I laced up our plushly smooth +Pearl Izumi running shoes (well I was trying a different pair but still had Pearl gear on) and ran proudly through the fields at the notable Fort Donelson.  We were doing what we loved and exploring one of our favorite parts of history, but we were also connecting to something more significant.  We did not imagine in our minds we were running top secret messages and trying to break through enemy lines (at least I was not), but we did compel our bodies up and down those hills surrounding Fort Donelson where a similar struggle of self over body had ensued before.  We eagerly devoured information on metal signs whispering to us of the men who fought on that ground, who were also compelled by ideologies and beliefs.
(A better shot shows how anyone wanting access to the
South along the Cumberland river would have to first deal
with these cannons.  This river fort protected anything
beyond, most notably Nashville)
Fort Donelson was the Union's first major victory during the Civil War and as such was a great destination for our family's (a bunch of 'yankees') second Civil Wargasm (see Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic for description of Wargasm or just use your imagination.)  This Wargasm was all the sweeter because Brett missed the first one to Shiloh Battlefield.  Not to mention the fact that he is living on the other side of the world and we don't get to see much of the guy.  Still, running is a unique bonding experience and we were very blessed to have the chance to trot over this hallowed ground.

We could go on forever describing how special and long overdue our reunion was, but you get the idea.  We just hope to have many more similar opportunities ahead of us.  Obviously the activity that we love does not just run throughout our personal history but also throughout the human experience.  Whether you are carrying messages in battle or jogging around the park, life is much more interesting if you're running it!

(We both grew facial hair for the occasion as well, as  any dedicated person would.  Bryan chose the mustache and though I'm not sure he modeled it after any particular person, the mustache clearly was a solid choice of facial hair during the Civil War.  Just look at photos.  For mine, I had a few tough choices and finally settled on a facial grooming called the "Burnside," named after Ambrose Burnside.  Coincidently, this is the same person from where the word "sideburns" comes from.  So go ahead and thank him for his mighty contributions to the facial hair world.  And while you're thinking about how weird it really is that we call anything on our face "sideburns," go ahead and click on this link to experience some great Civil War facial hair.)