Why I Run: Where Discipline Meets Freedom

I don’t know exactly when I started getting into running (around age 11, as best I can recall), and I don’t even really remember why, other than the fact that my dad bought me a pair of running shoes. We would go up to the middle school track or run our 3 mile neighborhood loop on the weekends, and he started signing us up for road races. I don’t remember loving running itself at that age, but I remember loving that I had a way to challenge myself, compete with others, and spend time with my dad. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was planting in me a subconscious belief that I was capable of more than I consciously realized (like the fact that I could actually run 2 miles, even though the mile run in school had seemed like the hardest thing ever). I’m so thankful for that.

I don’t run because I’m good or fast. I am neither of those things, and being a “good” runner will never be my primary goal. While running initially was just another activity that fed my craving for competition and success mixed in with some element of socialization, it has become so much more over the last several years. As I grew in rooting my identity in Christ and not my achievements, the role of running in my life also grew in meaning. So, here’s why I run.

I run because it’s something I can enjoy without comparison to others. While so much in my life has been about striving, achieving, and competing to be the best, running has become my freedom.

I used to consider running to be a fairly rigid and confining sport. “X” number of laps around a track, executing the same movement patterns on repeat, hoping to shave a few seconds off a ticking clock. So structured, so simple, so mechanical. But as I’ve learned with much else in life, a structured foundation precludes enjoyment of a richer freedom. With running, the structure of repetitious movements allows my body to find a mindless rhythm, and then shift my attention to processing thoughts, praying, or just being present. Similarly, I have found the structured foundation of spiritual disciplines to allow for freedom to delight more deeply in Christ Himself. If I don’t have to think twice about whether or not I am going to pray on my drive to work in the morning, the decision is already automatically made and I am more freed up to enjoy the actual experience of communing with God. Running has helped me taste that kind of delightful freedom born from structure. If I don’t have to think twice about whether or not I am going to run, I put on my shoes, my legs start moving, and my soul is free to engage with God in whatever way it needs to that day.

I run because it teaches my self indulgent nature to submit to self discipline – when I don’t feel like running, I must choose to act out of knowledge that it is good for me to run rather than feelings of laziness. Again, this principle applies widely to life: choosing to love people when I don’t feel like it, choosing to clean when I feel like being lazy, choosing to study when I would much rather read for fun, and choosing to give my time to others in need when I already had a full agenda for the day. Running teaches me how to find joy in the discipline. At the same time, when I succumb to skipping an intended run, I learn to give myself grace and realize that life is never going to be the perfect balance that I want it to be, and that’s okay.

I run because challenging myself is addicting, because pushing limits makes me feel alive in the most intense, simple but profound, way. I have not yet found those limits, and I hope to keep running until I hit them, and then maybe a little more. I run to explore, to push boundaries, to be free. Running is a reflection of my soul’s longing for the purest joy found in true freedom.

I run because I can, and because there are so many others who wish they could. I run because health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) is important, and running nourishes all of those aspects. I run because the human body is AMAZING. The body’s abilities are so much greater than we realize, and I become even more in awe of the Creator when I push myself harder than I thought possible. Even when injured, the body has incredible healing mechanisms that allow us to bounce back over time. Any running injuries I’ve gotten have served a purpose – reminding me to rest, to not be overly ambitious, to listen to my body and pay close attention to the details of my gait, and that I am not invincible. Injuries have, again, reminded me that though I love freedom, I also need the purposeful cause-and-effect structure of life to keep me grounded.

I run because it is both deeply individual and wonderfully community-based. As a borderline introvert-extravert, I love that running offers the opportunity for either intense solitude or conversation. Running with others has yielded some incredible conversations, helped me push my pace when I become too comfortable, and allowed countless opportunities for encouragement and support.

I run to escape my thoughts when they seem unrelenting and overwhelming, and I also run to get thoughts flowing that I have been avoiding. I run to process, to deal with pent up emotions or stress, to pray, to experience peace, to listen. I run because I feel the Lord’s presence, because He often speaks to me on the trail. I run because there are times my running communicates to the Lord the state of my heart more purely than my words can manage to convey.

Running has given me so much joy and fullness of life, and it has ultimately pointed me to the Creator of life in such a unique way. I am so thankful for the ability to run, and so thankful for the way God uses it to strengthen my body and nourish my soul. Yes, there are certainly times where I don’t enjoy my run and want to be done and don’t “get anything out of it.” But that’s all part of the process, part of showing up anyway, part of the discipline leading to freedom.

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“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” – John L. Parker Jr.

 

Also, keepin’ it real… here is the un-posed version of that photo.

AOBR2018-1045

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