Today is the last day of July and so I wanted to finish the book. The last chapter focuses on “Spiritual Running – Preparing to Practice.” We’ve been running together, we’ve been talking about prayer and meditation while running, we’ve talked about routines and rituals, we’ve talked about opening ourselves to the divine wisdom that comes to us while running, now it’s time to go out and take time practicing these things. Spend time running with no music and listening to God instead. Spend time reading scripture before you go out so that you can reflect on that during your run. Decide before you go out whom you will pray for each mile of the way and dedicate your run to the intentions of others. There are so many ways that you can make your run into a spiritual experience. Find the one or two that work for you – and run with it! I’m still working on this and I am thinking that it may be the next leg of my running journey to put some of the wonderful things I have reading this book into practice! But where to begin?

First the author suggests that you need a ‘coach’ – not a coach to train you on the physical part of running but a person who will journey this spiritual path with you. I am thinking of a friend who you can have these types of conversations with, a Spiritual Director who will walk the spiritual path with you, or if you prefer there are books or blogs that can help steer you in the right direction – the nice thing about a person versus a book is that you can have dialogue with a person so that you can discuss and chew on things with someone who will help you to sort it all out. That is one thing I loved about our Friday mornings, the conversation and hearing from others what works for them, what they tried new, or what they already do and don’t even realize they were doing it.

Second you need support, like a running club. When you have others you are going with it makes a difference! I liked the Friday mornings because of the community aspect of it. We gathered, prayed and then went out – each day I tried to run or walk with a person or two sometimes that meant pushing me and some days I was the one to push the other. A running community is great to keep you motivated and going. I notice when I run by myself I will slow down quite a bit without realizing it, or I can talk myself out of pushing through, it’s a lot harder when you are out with someone else. I have gone running with my sister several times this summer – it’s hard since we are at different speeds, but it’s good because we learn from one other and can encourage each other too. It’s harder to slow down and take it easy when you’re running with someone else!

Third, focus on making steady progress. The author talks about learning how to run hills – shorter steps and staying focused on the next few steps rather than the long road ahead. We talked on Friday’s about increasing your mileage over time and one person talked this last Friday about not cheating yourself – if you go out for a 4-mile run don’t stop until you’ve run the four miles. This morning I went on a run with no expectation of time or mileage, instead I have a corner where I turn off to head home, and I have noticed that as I get close to that corner, no matter if I’ve done a short run or a long run my mind and body are done and the thought of staying straight and going the longer way home is daunting. So today I began my run with the end in mind – I was going to run through that spot and take the longer route home – I just kept telling myself that I didn’t want to cheat myself by always choosing the easier route here. I needed to run through that intersection and go straight! I did it and it felt great! I’ll be finishing my 5K-10K app in a few weeks and I think my next focus will be setting some new routes focusing on miles rather than time. It’s too easy for me to cheat myself and just slow down when I’m only focused only on how much time I’m running.

And the final thing to consider is “enthusiasm with content” – here the author talks about how just enthusiasm about something can lead us into some not so good choices. We need to learn more about what we are excited about so that we can make well-informed choices. Spend time learning about running so you don’t enthusiastically sign up for a marathon without first knowing what you’ll need to do for training! Spend time learning more about spirituality and nurturing your spirituality so that it can grow and blossom so those long-runs when your music doesn’t work can be a time of nurturing your relationship with God. Enthusiasm is great, add to that knowledge and you will grow faster and farther than you ever thought possible!

This has been an amazing month of growth for me. Thank you for sharing with me – whether you’ve been following the blog, sharing your story or out there running with me on Friday mornings – I have been blessed by you! Maybe we’ll do this again next July – I already have my eye on another book to read about spirituality and running, but if you run across one let me know!