Running on Purpose
If you aren't a runner, you probably rarely run by accident - unless, that is, you end up late for a train or chased by a fierce animal. But if you are a runner, chances are, you run on purpose.
My purpose for running has changed over the years, and it actually took me a while to figure that out. When I was little, I ran just to run.
I especially enjoyed our "longer" runs (and can hardly believe that the longest runs we did were 6 milers) and talking and sharing as we ran. I even enjoyed the interval training - I liked being pushed and pushing myself. I thought the purpose of running was competition, and I wondered why anyone who wasn't fast would even try to run. Yes, conceited. Yes, naive. What can I say - I was a teenager.
When I got into college and later, even though I was no longer a competitive runner, I still thought competition was the purpose of running. Even though I wasn't training, I still thought I could run a competitive 5K... I paid the price. And I changed my purpose for running. For several years, I ran *only* to get in shape/keep in shape for soccer. I know plenty of people who only run when there's a ball in front of them.
I began to enjoy those races, mostly because I started to find friends there - mostly friends from other venues (soccer friends, basketball friends, even seminary friends) - so it seems that camaraderie was still a big part of my run.
But as I began training for a marathon, something changed. I began training and running mega miles, and (once I got over the initial horror of seeing those huge numbers on Hal Higdon's marathon training chart) I started to enjoy running simply for the sake of the run.
Sure, I like the side benefits; I like being able to eat whatever I want - though the "whatever I want" actually changes when I run, because I actually want to eat more healthy because it helps me run farther and faster. I love the endorphin rush and the way I feel after a run. I love that I've lost weight and that I'm in better shape for soccer.
I still am competitive - I love seeing my times drop, even when it's just over a mile or an interval workout. My average mile time has dropped significantly, and I like that.
But even beyond the competition, I enjoy running for the time it takes. It's a time to collect my thoughts, to pray, to listen to sermons, to listen to music, to relax (ha!), to put aside a to-do list, to recharge my mental batteries. It's a time to share with friends (when I'm fortunate enough to train with friends). There is a deep connection between the physical and the spiritual, and when I am able to be physically active, I sense the spiritual as well. God is with me when I run.