It is my secret life ambition to enjoy running. Every six months or so, I try running. And my enthusiasm usually wanes quite quickly. But not this time! I decided last weekend that I was going to push myself to prepare for next weekend's 5k run/walk at my college homecoming weekend. This means that I'm just past halfway of two weeks of regular running in hopes of being able to run most, if not all, of the 3.1 miles required of me next Saturday. I have to say...things are going well this time around. I've realized that alternating days of longer and shorter runs works well for me, and that I am learning to LOVE the post-run rush, where you forget how tired and hot you are - forget the "pain" of the run itself - and only remember how good you feel afterward, all strong and energized! In case you wanted proof, here's me all red-faced (but happy..and a little blurry) post-run a couple days ago:
I went running yesterday late afternoon on an overcast, cool, autumn day. One of my favorite running routes involves winding through some of the foot and bike paths near the lakeshore and then circling a big field that often gets used for multiple games of soccer.
Yesterday was no exception - the fields were full of people, mostly Hispanic/Latino families and friends congregating around loved ones playing in soccer leagues. There were children everywhere, tossing balls and taking walks and playing in the grass. Every few yards there was a grill warming up alongside long tables full of food. This, to me, was the epitome of a Sunday afternoon: families coming together, sharing food and fellowship, taking advantage of the weather before winter hits. I looked at the soccer games. And then I looked at myself.
There I was, considering exercise to be a solitary venture. I believe wholeheartedly that I am a product of my generation, my culture, and my socio-economic position. I am a twenty-something, white girl of middle-class origins. As a person of this demographic, I have been taught to value individualism and self-sufficiency. And so, on some level, my choice to become a runner exemplifies this ingrained individualism. Running past the soccer fields, however, I saw a different interpretation of values. I watched people running around and burning calories, just like I was, except that they were doing it in community. And not only were they enjoying themselves (perhaps more that I was!), but the coming-together was cause for a major afternoon event. It was a time to congregate with family and friends, to share a meal, to be together and in community with one another.
I think about youth and young people that I've talked to who are struggling with the necessity of being a part of a faith community. There has been an emphasis in current Christianity on one's individual relationship with Jesus and one's individual faith in God, and this emphasis, on some level, has obscured the necessity for being in faith-community. It's as if to say that exercise itself is the only important thing, so you might as well be a runner instead of a soccer player.
But let me tell you. Running alone is hard. There's no one to motivate you except yourself. There's no one to tell you that you're doing well, keep it up! There's no one to help you correct your form to take strain off your joints, no one to complain to when you're feeling tired, no one to rejoice with when you have achieved a goal. That's what the soccer fields are for. Gathering with loved ones, sharing in something that reaches beyond yourself, relying on the community not only for your exercise but for your well-being as a person.
It's a new goal of mine to make sure that I go running around the soccer fields on Sunday afternoons, so that I too can glean some energy and joy from the community gathered there.
In the life of faith, Monday through Saturday might be running days, but the reason that we can keep running is because we play soccer together on Sundays.