And the day God breathed upon your still life, stirring into being the green leaf and the flower, bud upon the branch and light
upon your soul. Here you felt the earth’s air on your petals and your leaves, and squinted into sunlight, gazing high for heaven
until you felt the gardener’s hand gently turning soil and soul, and nurturing you, bud in radiant sun.
Cascading rain absorbed in warm earth turning, heaven of fragrance. What is that sound in the wind and dazzling light?
Oh, the sweet sound of your delight in God. Sometimes it is like the sound of running laughter.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Solitude and the Long Distance Runner

Solitude is necessary to the long distance runner. Through many hours the runner moves along the trail through the breezes or the stillness of the day. Over the miles, through the quiet he paces forward accompanied only by his reflections. This is the stuff of distance running; to be alone.

We break this up occasionally with music we’ve brought along or messages to listen to that inspire or teach, but in the end we are left with our thoughts. If you are like me, you cherish these times. These are precious seasons to dwell on the important things, and to dwell on the mundane; to ponder and expand a thought; to thrive in the life of the mind. But there is a limit to these reveries; there is a moment when we have had enough of our own mind and we just want to speak with someone, exchange ideas and have a dialogue with another person.

A few days ago I had scheduled my final long run in preparation for the upcoming TCM marathon. I rose at 4am, biked 5 miles to the Hopkins Depot, ran to the southernmost end-point of the Regional Trail and back – a total distance of 26.2 miles (26.5 with detour), and then biked 5 miles home. The morning was perfect for my run. First the darkness of early morning, and then a light misty rain in the breaking dawn, brief and refreshing; the gradual stirrings of wildlife, the birds and squirrels as the light increased to full daylight, just a wonderful day. Other runners started popping up a little after 6 in the morning, just a few. The numbers of runners, walkers, and bikers increased with the growing light of day. My pictures try and capture some of the visual magic of this run. It was a stunning day to see and smell and savor in so many ways.

My training run was very slow as runs go. It took me almost 6 hours – very slow even for me. But I’m not concerned given that I had compressed a series of workouts into a little over a week’s time to get to my last long run. I think I will be fine by marathon time. The run was so good for so many things not the least of which was my heart. I needed time with God – alone.

Yes, solitude is woven into the life of the long distance runner. But for me this solitude is enjoined with my passion for God, my love of Him and the things He loves. When I run I usually enjoy a solitude from men. But my own restlessness and longings to run are often signals to me that I need to draw near to Him for a quiet season. The long run offers me an extended solitude with God; time to reflect and allow Him to put things in perspective, to listen, to love more deeply than yesterday, to run with steady heart and resolve, setting discomforts aside and reaching for His fellowship, digging deep and learning - once again – to wait on Him, just to wait on Him. Solitude with God on the long run gives me time to be truly alone with Him. I need this time. I need His fellowship.

Oh, the enemy of our souls would work to destroy these precious times, give us hardships and struggles, discouragements. But we must determine to have none of it; to turn our attentions wholly to the purposes at hand. We must determine to press on in the face of tough things and strive to achieve what we have set out to do. For me these are simple things: 1) Spend time with Him and 2) Train to the next level, always watchful not to push too hard and cause injury. We listen to our bodies as we strive to avoid over-training and things. We listen to God as we strive to strengthen our passion for God and reach new heights in our love for Him. Running is a simple thing. I think that loving God is the same.

My friend, let’s both run hard and true. We have no greater purpose than to find Him along these trails. I’ll be looking for the next trailhead, a break in the trees, and a small footpath into the woods. Will you be there? I’m hoping to see you soon. Give a wave, I’ll smile back!


Abbey von Gohren said...

I really appreciate this meditation. Yesterday's 16 miler gave me a chance to indulge in one of those long stretches of solitude. Couldn't read my books, couldn't talk (except to myself...or God!), didn't even have music - but it was a much-needed break for the brain.

Two hours is my limit, however...before I start getting bored with my own company. : )

Anonymous said...

Execellent post!

A large part of running for me is the meditative state achieved through motion in a solitary space. One of the best things in life....

Zen Runner