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Monday, September 21, 2009

Saints of Endurance, Hasten to Help Us

Ever see this before? It was new to me as I was browsing the internet looking for stock images of grimacing/scowling runners. It's a bit ironic - don't you think - that I found this when I was looking for something grim and sweaty! I have now decided to adopt it as my own personal running creed since as I convey a little story of endurance that goes with it.

About a year and a half ago, a woman that I know from church was quite literally run over by a truck as she was doing her daily run. She was caught underneath the vehicle and dragged as it was turning a corner. By the grace of God, she managed to hang on through the turn to avoid being crushed by the tires. By all accounts, Kathryn is lucky to be alive. Her initial prognosis was that she may not ever be able to walk again. Kathryn underwent many months of skin grafts, surgeries and physical therapy and now walks among us as a symbol of hope and healing. I got to know Kathryn personally through the tragedy as I was one of many people bringing her daily Holy Communion. Kathryn was upheld by the Eucharist and sustained through her recovery through her faith and adherence to the sacraments. A powerful witness to an age where everything turns on the idiom, do it yourself. Kathryn endured because she trusted and she asked for help.

Contrary to common logic, I started running as a result of Kathryn's accident. I figured if she couldn't participate in her passion while she recovered, I would do it for her. Lord knows, I am no runner. Best I could do at first was run around a small block. I offered up each day's jog to her continued healing and asked my personal saints to get me through it. And they did. For about the first month it was agony...then it got a little easier. I lengthened out my distance. One block; then one block plus another road; then another; then another block. I used to make fun of the runner's and their agonizing grimaces. Gluttons for punishment, I called them. Just look at them - in all their inglorious pain: the anti-advertisement for physical fitness. I now have a different understanding. Yes, it's painful when you're cramping, sweating and not properly stretched out. But I've come to learn that if I take proper precautions, (hydrate beforehand, stretch properly, pace myself,) the run can be smooth, and beautiful even though it is physically taxing. Then there's the after-affect. Those glorious endorphines! Natural little chemical sweethearts that make you feel all serene inside.

So how does it happen that something that I decide to take on as a sacrifice, ends up doing me such good. Ah, there's the rub! Endurance running is such a metaphor for the interior life. Hydrating might be equated to staying close to the life-giving sacraments, our source of hope and strength. We stretch out physically to limber up stiff muscles and tired ligaments so that we avoid injury and have the capacity to go the distance. Spiritual stretching is similar: we have to extend ourselves mentally and spiritually to be able to see and think and act more according to God's precepts rather than self. Pacing and tempo are is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Start slow and regulate your breathing. There are places to pick up the pace and places to really slow down and rest. Spiritually, aren't there times in life where we are challenged to dig out the uphill path? Plan accordingly.

I now average about a 3-mile run per day and I ran my first 4.5 mile run Saturday. I still ask my saints to run with me for I believe it is this great cloud of witnesses that keep me sustained. I find that my runs provide new inspiration and creativity. Running helps to decrease depression, lower cholesterol, keep weight down, decrease hypertension and blood pressure. Many a blog-post have originated on this path. I find that' I don t run for a way out, I run for a way "in".

Don't know where to begin? Find some Saints of Endurance. The church has literally thousands of them. If you want, you can borrow mine:

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St. Theresa of Avila
St. John of the Cross
St. Therese of Liseux
St. Mary Magdalene
St. Joseph
St. George
St. Michael the Archangel
St. Monica
St. Augustine
Guardian Angel (pray for me, protect me and guide me to heaven)

*Editor's Note Regarding Sweat Equity*
I realize that some of you may have absolutely no willingness or desire to begin or even to consider a running program, nor should you, particularly if you suffer from cardio-vascular disease or are restricted from physical activity in any way. My challenge to you is this: To what "hard-to-do" passion do I owe a bit of sweat that would ultimately help me to foster the virtue of endurance? Perhaps you sew, paint, blog, write music, perform generous acts of kindness, work on difficult relationships? There just might be a training table with your name on it.

1 comment:

  1. Here's note from a "sweaty" comrade - I made it up to a half marathon back in my forties. I was running away from tough things. When those things were finally resloved I stopped running.
    Don't let running become an obsession in itself.