Praying and Running
Sunday morning I went for a run. I shut off the music, I shut off my running app that tells me my mileage and timing, but I did keep my training app on so that I could listen to the directions of walk, jog, run, etc. It was a different kind of run for me. I was much more aware of my breathing and of the sounds of the traffic around me. Even though I didn't listen to music I noticed that the lyrics of some of the songs that have impacted me while running came to me anyway. It was a short run on Sunday (thank goodness with the heat and a later than usual run). Between the heat and the traffic it was a good reminder to me as to why I run so early in the morning! 5:30/6:00am the heat isn't too overwhelming yet and there is much less traffic. Since I know myself pretty well I also spent Sunday morning going a route I never go - so that way I wasn't mentally tallying up how far and guessing my timing - I still did some of that but it was harder since I wasn't as familiar with the distance on this route. This morning I again had a short run in my training, so I did the same - no music, no voice coach, just my trainer telling me when to walk, when to run and when to cool down walk. It was wonderful! I found myself more aware of my body but also more mentally open. It was a wonderful run!
Well, we are up to Chapter five in the book. This was a good chapter for me and I found some great inspiration from it. It is called "Prayerful Running". In the early days my prayer was definitely more of a get-me-through-this, but now my prayer as I run is more of a waiting to see God reveal himself to me through nature, or through people, or through inspiration that I get as I'm running.
The author mentions often that he is not Catholic, yet refers often to those Catholics he knows who use the sign of the cross before they run. Do you do this when you go out running? I'm still working on finding a ritual that works for me to begin my run. The sign of the cross is an amazingly simple prayer, calling upon the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit to be with us, to lead and guide us. My problem truly is that since I run in the morning like I do I'm just happy to be dressed and out the door and I'm probably not fully awake until I've actually been running for awhile.
I love how when I am running I can't be doing anything else. I can't be reading a book or knitting a sweater (although I read an article about a couple of people who did this - so never say never!), I can't be checking and responding to emails, basically when I run, I run. The only thing I can do is think and open myself and my mind to anything. It may be prayer, it may be contemplating a problem I am having, it may be just being open to what the spirit puts there. The thing is what we think about as we run often is, or borders on, prayer.
The author also gave some great ideas for intentionally incorporating prayer into your run.
- One thing he talked about was "prayer flags" which are common in the Buddhist tradition. He then shared how any of us could do this also. A prayer flag is just that, a piece of cloth with a prayer written on it - when you see it you pray for the intention. Well, when you are a race or even when you are out running in a park or a trail you see other people with t-shirts on that might be from previous races/runs that they did. Many of those shirts probably promote a charity. Pray for that charity. Then there's the idea to make your own. Write your prayer intention on your shirt so that when you put it on, or when others see it, it is a call to prayer.
- Another idea the author gives, and again remember he is not Catholic, is to carry prayer beads. I have carried a rosary - which I have not found to be the most easy thing to do, but it can be used to help you focus your prayer and the repetition of your prayer becomes a mantra as you run. This can be helpful. I have at times, when my run gets hard, focused on saying the Hail Mary or Glory Be and counting on my fingers as a way to distract myself from the difficulty and put my focus elsewhere. I have a one decade rosary that I think I'll try one of these days also!
- And a final suggestion the author gives in this chapter has to do with those who wear a "pace band" when running a marathon. The pace band helps you during the marathon to know if you are on pace mile to mile. The author suggests that next to each mile you not only have your time, but a person that you will pray for during that mile. I like this idea. Maybe someday I'll run a few more miles at one time, but for now I can get my 1-3 people prayed for during my morning runs! Hoping to reach 4 miles on a run soon! Not looking for any miracles, but a little more distance and a little more speed is my hope these days! And with each mile I can pray for another person/intention!
My question for you today - how do you incorporate prayer into your run? Do you have a starting ritual that invites God into the activity? Do you have people that you pray for when you run? Do you pray while you run - or are you like me and some days your run is filled with nothing concrete in your mind, yet ends up being very mentally and spiritually satisfying and renewing? Share your running and praying!