This may be a bit of a ramble.
I used to insist on music while running / training. The first challenge I issued to myself when transitioning from obsessed walker to jogger was to run the length of one song on my iPod. It didn’t kill me. That turned into running.
One of the reasons I used to always run with music (and still sometimes do) is that I simply have a very strong connection to it. I’ve been somewhat of a musician since age 10, and it is an extremely deep and important part of my life. I connect much of life to music. This connection is just natural to me.
Another reason music became so much a part of running for me is that I found I could distract myself by striding to its beat. It became easy to keep moving at a steady pace by simply making sure that my foot came down with each pulse of what I was hearing. When I started trying to improve my skill, I chose music that was moving along at 150 to 170 BPM (or could be subdivided into that for you music geeks). I made playlists grouped by BPM’s and then arranged the content for what I thought I might like.
For example, I once made a play list called “Last 10K” that I planned to turn on at the 20-mile mark of a marathon when I was tired and needed some inspiration. I got pretty detailed with this, but soon I noticed that when I didn’t have music playing, I was struggling. That’s not really good.
Nowadays, I run with music only if I’m not running with others, and not even every time I do that. Because of this, my days of running with music seem more special – a treat – a relaxation, etc. and i’m not that worried about the BPM’s anymore. If it is under about 160, I just tell myself to run faster than the music.
I almost always listen to a specific playlist on Sundays. I call it “Jesus.” I love my Sunday morning Jesus music runs. When I hear or buy a great worship song, it goes in my “Jesus” playlist. Then on (especially) those Sunday morning runs, I just shuffle it. Sometimes, those 30-minute to 90-minute runs are some of the sweetest times of worship that I have.
And that brings up for me the other connection I wanted to highlight – that of running and faith. That is the deep one. I don’t want to make too much out of running as a spiritual exercise, but there is a deeply spiritual component for me. Analyzing it too much can take some of the joy out of it, but here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Running represents overcoming.
Long distance running is about endurance. It is about staying with it, no matter what, overcoming obstacles, fighting mental battles, and pushing to finish something. There is a lot of faith stuff wrapped up in that.
2. Running allows meditation.
From deep thoughts, focused prayer, problem solving to simple mantras, running allows some deep thought time. When I choose to use that deep thought time for the high purpose of communicating with God, thinking deeply and slowly, and dwelling on faith matters, it is a good. good thing. At times, it’s been an escape – but more often than that, it is an entrance into welcomed thought time.
3. Running allows for purposed activity.
Through great organizations like Team World Vision, running also allows me to use my effort to raise awareness and resources for things like clean water projects, child protection, etc. Some of my marathons have been connected to this great cause. While I don’t believe charity is the only reason a person should run…and I don’t believe that not running for charity is a selfish endeavor, genorosity is a loving and good thing. It is a joy to have a hand in providing clean water to people who need it. Want to donate? Hint, hint…here is my fundraising page for this year’s Chicago marathon.
4. Running fosters community.
The running community is a good one. Sure, it has its problems, but it presents multiple opportunities for character development too. There is a sense of how we are all in this together, and there is the opportunity to allow grace to others, to work together, to avoid comparison, to be humble and to help and inspire others along the way. Any worthwhile community has this, and it is true of running as well. I’ve had good long talks with people while on a run – helpful, deep and real conversation. I’ve learned to put up with people and allow them to put up with me. I’ve made friends running, and I have deepened friendships that way as well.
5. Running can be a spiritual as I make it.
What got me thinking about all of this was being in church yesterday and worshiping with the song “Forever Reign.” I think that one single song carries the most meaning for me when connecting running, faith and music. When we worship with that song, I can close my eyes and almost feel myself running as we sing the words
Oh I’m running to Your arms
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign
I feel motion, and I see roads ahead of me, and somehow there is the great connection to life in Jesus, and life left to live, and what I’ve run from, and on and on and on.
That simple song that I’ve run to 100’s of times (it’s in my playlist multiple times) brings me to a place where I can connect it all. A place where things are right, and good, and holy and wonderful. A place of longing, of a journey, of the race that I’ll someday finish, of God’s goodness and love, of contentment…well, you get the idea.
Running isn’t everybody’s thing. It’s not even really possible for everyone. I’m very thankful, though for the season I’m in – one where I still feel the presence of God on the run – and I can celebrate it. For now, it’s where I am.