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.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Marathons, Trails, and Immortality

Sunday the 4th of October was an almost perfect marathon running day. I had the opportunity to catch a ride with Jeff, a fellow marathoner, early in the morning. We headed into Minneapolis to the starting area for our run. We were both looking for great experiences and got to there in plenty of time. I dressed in shorts, a singlet, and gloves. The temperature at race start was hovering around 45.2F and climbed modestly over my run to 54.6F, a light north breeze averaging 7.5 mph. Somewhere along the way, we encountered a very light mist-like rain lastly only 20 minutes or so - refreshing. At a little over 10 miles Jeff drifted on ahead of me, and I was glad for him. I settled into a slower pace and moved along. For whatever reason the remaining 16 miles required serious determination. My mind and body complained constantly. I’ve run a few marathons, so the distance was not new. But on that day, in that place I was really struggling. It was good for me to have to fight for it. I need that. I need to feel the reach and the effort in order to truly value the prize. My chip time was 5:14; one of my slowest. But that’s fine for me. After a fantastic burger and fries (Whoa, yeah!), I headed home for a shower, and then dashed to the airport - I was heading to Vancouver, BC.

Working in Vancouver BC the following week, a colleague asked on Monday, “So you run a little? We go out on Wednesdays for a little run on the trails… You want join us?” I could hardly believe my ears. How perfect! But could I run on my tired marathon legs? Then, how could I pass up a wonderful trail run? What a blessing! I said, “Yes! I’d love to. Just tell me where to be.” The next day Paul supplied me with maps to get me to the meeting point of the group. Wednesday after work I made my way to the location on the map – “the corner store”, and met up with my friend Paul and the other members of this hardy band of runners – another Paul, Jen, Bob, Sue, and Michelle. There were seven of us altogether and off we went into the Lynn Canyon Park on the Baden-Powell trail that tracks along the edge of Lynn Creek - incredible beauty from my first steps; a high woodland canopy alive with birds and other wildlife. At the outset the group was moving at about 9:30 minute per mile. A healthy pace for me on my just-a-few-days-ago marathon legs, but I thought to myself – “Hey, let’s go!” The massive trees and lovely forest trails interspersed with rock beds, twisting roots and branches, and the typical undulations of a woodland trail - every breath a fragrant blessing, every sight a glorious declaration. We were running through a wonderland of glory. This was all that I imagined and so much more. By the time we made our turnaround point, night had fallen and we were in near darkness. I had been cautioned to bring a headlamp. As we set our return direction I did not have time to get my headlamp ready, and just set off down the trail. In the dark as the twists and roots and boulders threatened to crash me, I was eventually forced to simply stop in the total darkness and get my headlamp going. Yeah, now I could see – and off I went chasing the string of lights snaking along the trail ahead of me in the night. What a fabulous evening. In all we covered 6.91 miles in 1:26 hours (the others at a somewhat better pace). For me this was an overall pace of 12:31 with 2639 ascending/2657 descending. A very good run with new friends along the trails. Oh, and the burger I had following the run was excellent! What a perfect evening.

Several mornings later I journaled,

“This morning feeling very mortal… Many muscles are sore… But I just could not let my invitation to run trails in Vancouver BC slip away. So now I will slow for a bit and heal… I came downstairs and lay on the couch, and noticed a short time later the sun was about to break out above the trees through the front window into my face. I decided to let the sun and dappling light stir me to full wakefulness. Ah, my morning begins in thanksgiving and praise even if I do feel mortal. Yes, we are immortals and aware of the realms beyond.”

When God formed us, He made us creatures with immortal souls. We run these trails and see his handiwork, we taste His glory, and our senses come alive to His majesty. And just every so often we glimpse His eternal nature and come away speechless and overwhelmed. It is that He calls to us continually, urging us to listen with greater care and attentiveness to His love song. Perhaps King David said it best when he sang,

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Psalm 148:7-12

Our ears prick excitedly and our hearts lean forward to hear Him more clearly. Yes, we are awakened to new depths of His beauty. I was glad for the marathon and glad for the trails north of Vancouver BC. These were rich experiences for me. But to be honest, I simply run for Him. I run the trails and run the races so that I might see Him a little more clearly along the way. And my hope is that you will be there along the trails – listening with me for the voice of Him to whom we owe our very lives and the breath of our being. The great trees of Lynn Valley Canyon Park shake with His glory praising Him. May our legs run and our lips sing of His infinite worth and beauty. Oh, may we both run hard and true dancing on the winds of immortality.

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