Running as Catharsis: Running as Worship

I hate running.  Absolutely hate it.  I have friends that run, and they tell me it’s awesome.  Friends and family who run marathons, half-marathons and 5ks and get addicted to it.  Sometimes my friends even write blogs about how awesome running is.  (i.e. Awesome Bonnie, fitness guru, who writes about winter running here.)  All of these romantic notions convince me I like the idea of running.

So one morning (er, like, yesterday) I get tricked into running.  I put on my silky long johns, my new Montrail running shoes, a warm hat and gloves, strap on my new watch with a stop watch/heart rate monitor/pedometer, and slip the ipod into my running jackets special secret iPod pocket.  Everything’s  a go, and for the first eight minutes everything’s going stellar.  I think to myself, “This is so great!  It’s so quiet and beautiful outside!  Look at me, I’m running for 8 minutes without stopping!  I’m listening to my favorite songs of Glee, and I’m up at 7:30am running!”  But perfection is fleeting, and suddenly, my already busted earphones are falling out of my ears and I have to stop to readjust.  When I stop, I realize my hat is creeping up thereby failing at its number one job (keeping my ears warm) and my ears are freezing and now I have a pounding painful headache.  And even though I’m jogging rather slow, my heart rate is at 95%.  I’m now an 8 minute jog away from home, ready to quit.

This is usually where my running career ends…here, or a week and a few runs later in the same spot.  And the silky long johns and running jacket get shelved for a few months, until i read an inspiring blog or see a picture of Keira Knightley or catch a clip from the Biggest Loser, and I somehow believe it will all go differently and try again.

This morning was different though.  Emotionally, I woke up at a point where I just needed to do something, and the something needed to be simple and concrete with my body…some kind of movement to work through all the muck of emotions that were clogging my pores.  It was either going to be running or yoga, and sometimes, in yoga, my self-talk will be so loud that I can’t shut it up.  With running, there was something about shoving the headphones in and experiencing a the physical challenge that felt attractive…like I could pound out the murkiness as I stomped the pavement.

I found a better hat to cover my head, jerry-rigged my expensive noise-isolating headphones with first-aid tape, turned on Kathleen Edwards, and ran.  I knew the perfect song for this morning, oh-so-creatively named, “Run.”

But the smell of the world came into my lungs
The sound of the gravel when my legs went numb
And my heart nearly burst right out of my chest
And it felt so good to know I wasn’t dead

I would run down the lane
And into the night
Run so fast I swear my feet would fly
Run from my babies asleep in their beds
Run from my lover and my best friend
And back again

Kathleen wrote the song for her friend’s mom, who talked about working long hours and coming home to care for her family.  At night, to maintain her sanity, she’d just run as fast and as hard as she could to the end of her lane, away from everything, and then she’d eventually, when she was ready to face it again, turn around and run back home.

Scripture talks about bringing the sacrifice of praise.  For me, in running this morning, it felt like bodily worship, a true sacrifice of praise, acknowledging my smallness in the world and just inviting the Lord into that moment when running felt like the most logical thing in the world.

By the time I was home, the muddled emotions had faded a bit, and life felt simpler.  I could think with  more in focus, and thus running was a vehicle for having a fresh start to the day.   Brilliant.  Date #1 was a flop, but Date #2 leads me to believe this could go somewhere.

Later today, I even printed off a 5K training schedule I found online.  Egads, do you see that itty bitty snowball perched at the top of the hill, preparing to begin its descent?

I don’t know how long my on-again, off-again relationship with running will last this time around, but I do know that this morning, I ended my 20-minute adventure with gratitude.

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4 responses to “Running as Catharsis: Running as Worship

  1. What a GREAT, thoughtful post, Heather (and thanks for the shout-out)! Running is such a source of emotional release for me, and I know that not everyone loves it, but I also know many people who hated it and grew to love it. 😉 I love the quote by Eric Liddle, the Scottish runner of the famous “Chariots of Fire:” “I feel God’s pleasure when I run.” Not every run feels this way, but like you, the runs that do feel like this keep me coming back for more.

    Way to go signing up for a 5K! Wow…just be careful – the feeling you’ll get at the start and then at the finish line might just be a bit addicting… hehe! Thanks again for the neat post – and happy running!

  2. thanks bonnie! btw, i didn’t sign up for the 5k yet….just committed to printing off a training schedule called “Couch to 5K in 8 weeks.”

  3. Yes, this: “like I could pound out the murkiness as I stomped the pavement.”

  4. I was looking into the RSS feed thing you were telling me about and decided to find your blog. I have to say I was laughing out loud about your running experience. It is the same as mine though I have yet to print out a training schedule. (I have thought about it though) I am going to add you to my rss feed now that you have convinced me I need to have one:)

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