Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Running as a Spiritual Practice Deconstructed

In the 10 years I coached cross country, a season never went by without a runner asking why she was not allowed to wear headphones with the team. As someone who gave up listening to music while running over 15 years ago, I understood why any runner might ask as much as I understood why we prohibited this practice. And so, I found it ironic to listen to the "On Being" podcast "Running as a Spiritual Practice." While it affirmed the power of unplugging while running, I realized the show itself might offer an exception to the rule. Cross country and track coaches, runners both casual and competitive— give it a listen. Here's how...and here's why.
Cross country coaches know the importance of the three words June, July, and August also known as summer running (why hasn't anyone done a parody on this with the hit from "Grease," yet). 

Those coaches who are smart, lucky or both are able to take their team to (ideally) a rural location for three to five days for a running retreat—a euphemism for two-a days in locations so beautiful that your runners complain much less about the demanding trails, workouts, hill repeats and mileage. The days are short, the runs are long. The experience—the struggle, the exhaustion, the runners' highs and lows—it's real. However, this time away and yet together, pays dividends when runners must dig deep...when the state championship is on the line, or a runner stands at that line. A running camp that also serves as a retreat shapes makes its possible for individual runners to compete with one another, instead of against each other. 
Because this time is sacred, it ought to account for something more than an impressive running log. Teams can pray together, a coach can lead guided meditations. One or two runs can be taken in silence and by way of suggestion: take a run listening to this very podcast. Runners will have the chance to plug in and learn from adult runners, who are thoughtful, articulate, wise, some religious, many spiritual and honest.

Each respondent offers insights from their own unique and diverse experiences. Though I could not relate to every story, I appreciated learning more about the people with whom I might share the road.  And among those who offered ideas similar to the one I have, I gained a better sense of self...something Thomas Merton would approve, for the introduction of the podcast reveals his words.
"It is true that we are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives." 
Running helped me create my own life in ways I never could have imagined. Perhaps you understand.
I find it both ironic and fitting that one of the mottos of the cross country team I coached was "We run because we can." Though I can no longer run, I was able to listen with an honest appreciation for the great gift that running was in my life. Any of the following words from the On Being podcast could suffice as a motto for your team. These words still resonate with me.
  • Running as a passionate force in our lives and a powerful connector across all kinds of boundaries in American culture.
  • Running as not just a form of exercise or as a merely physical pursuit.
  • Running as a source of bonding between parents, children and friends.
  • Running as an interplay between competition and contemplation.  
  • Running, and body image and survival.
Krista Tippit concluded the program in saying, "Some people turn to prayer, mediation or yoga as a way to slow down and make sense of their lives, many find that through running." Below are questions that you can have your team discuss, or if you are a runner yourself, I hope you enjoy...or share with a friend who runs. So plug in, put on your shoes, break a sweat, enjoy the respite at the stoplights, make sure you pant, sweat, burn and breathe. That's what I miss about running....and the spirituality of it all.

  • Running is a moving meditation. What does that mean?
  • What stereotypes has running shattered for you?
  • What has running taught you about your body?
  • In order to finish the LA Marathon, Torres took the advice given to her when she hit the wall: find a mantra in your head and say it over and over. Her mantra became I am strong, I am powerful, I can do this. Do you have one?
JOHN CARY minute 8
  • What is your ideal running? Alone? With a group? With a partner?
  • Have you had some great conversations with other runners? What is it about running that allows this to occur?
  • What senses awaken when you run?
ASHLEY HICKS minute 12
  • Don’t run with music, headphones…”I call myself a true minimalist runner.” What does that mean to you?
  • Hicks noticed there were very few people of color at road races in her community. Who might be underrepresented on your team?
  • How has running help you become more spiritual—Has it?
  • The best thing for you to remember is that: The blessing is outside of your comfort zone. Meditate on this.
  • If you stay with what you’re comfortable with, you’ll never experience something new and incredible. What have you done that has taken you outside of your comfort zone, recently?
ROGER JOSLIN minute 16
  • Joslin shares that running was a distraction from the pain I was feeling. He said, “I ran to feel different…to escape from the pain.” What does running allow you to escape from?
  • Learned about meditation through running instead of learning about meditation through reading about meditation. Do you consider running a form of meditation? 
  • Stvavlund describes the Instrumental and Inherent goods of running. Which one do you value more? Explain. 
  • Kasawinah states that "My faith improves my running and running improves my faith." Can you relate?
  • When I’m running I’m actively expressing that gratitude. How?
  • Kasawinah also shares that, "A run feels truly spiritual after that first hour. There’s a period in between when I’m thinking of nothing, I’m receiving what is around me." How is this an example of spirituality? Is it?
MALLARY TENORE (minute 29)
  • Many people claim that runners are running away from something, but Tanori always viewed herself as running toward her mom. Which perspective do you hold?
    • What have you run away from?
    • What have you run to?
  • Tenore found that training for a marathon was her way of staying strong and remaining healthy. In fact, running was positive as it helped her let go of perfectionism. Do you struggle with perfectionism?
  • Who gave you the gift of running?
  • How can running be service? Community service?
  • What is the most unexpected way that running has formed you?
  • Singh states that running is responsible for the "shaping of my discipline. Engaging in something every single day—a ritual shapes someone." What personal and spiritual disciplines do you have/hold?
  • Running has contributed to my ethical formation? How? Is this true for you?
  • Marvin has made "faith and prayer into an extreme sport." She said, "my running time is my alone time….time to rejuvenate mind and body. I get a runner's high AND a spiritual high." Respond.
  • Do you have any power verses....passages of scripture or a holy text that you look at before you run?
Photo Credits
On Being
Red Shoes

No comments:

Post a Comment