This morning at church, with about half a voice and half a night’s sleep, I got to announce the start of a new adventure…
One of my birthday presents last year from my mother was this small piece of wood inscribed, “Born to Run.” The gift totally confused me. First of all, it was a piece of wood so was I supposed to burn it in some sort of ceremony? Second, I wasn’t born to run. In elementary school, I was the fat kid sitting on the side of the playground with a book. In middle school and high school I avoided running by offering to track attendance or count laps or just about anything other than that dreaded mile. And I chose rhythmic dance for my college PE courses because displaying the essence of a tree was much easier than something that involved actual sweat.
When I questioned my mother about the gift, she said I was born a runner. It just took me a while to figure it out. And like all too often, mom was right.
I became a runner after a “Come to Jesus” moment with the scale in February 2010. I finally admitted that my size 22 jeans and triple XL shirts weren’t just because of bad fashion or a camera adding 10 pounds. It was me.
That week I joined a gym, and I kept going. My first attempt at running was a few months later on the treadmill. I tended to be a late night gym goer and watched folks around me to understand all those strange contraptions. The treadmill seemed pretty normal but I still avoided it for a while. That first run was just one song long, I’m pretty sure it was Bang a Drum by Selena Gomez, and it left me fighting for air for the rest of the night. But I was hooked.
I completed my first 5K that June, the Starlight Run, and then a 10K in October, Race for the Cure. Eventually my journey has included 40 half marathons, 10 full marathons, a consistent running partner on Saturday mornings, and exploring so many new areas by foot.
Becoming a Christian and becoming a runner have been the two biggest changes of my life. My friendships, my schedule, my finances, and my connection to this city changed because of them. And I continue to learn through both constantly. During my first Portland Marathon, I developed a mantra as faster runners passed me: My pace, my race, my win. During Newport Marathon, when I was struggling with bronchitis, I discovered the difference between giving up and giving in to the needs of my body. And finishing a 5K at the back of the pack with a fourth grade-running buddy, literally in front of the sweeper cop car, taught me the beauty of perseverance.
Faith and running have a lot in common, including the fact that both are completely individual and both are completely communal. No person can save you or be saved on your behalf, and no person can carry you across the miles of a run and have it really count. And at the exact same time, you are no in competition with anyone else for your faith or your run so why not cheer on those around you. We are invited into community together to carry burdens that no one can handle alone.
So starting this week, I will be leading a new community group here at Eastside: IDC Runners. I wanted to share time with other members of our community who enjoy running, or maybe want to find out if they can enjoy it. It’s not about speed or distance or any other competitive marker. It’s about being intentional in spending some time with others and away from stuff. If running for you means six-minute miles, awesome. If it means 12-minute miles, awesome. If it means you hope to just make it a mile, awesome.
There will be two gatherings to start, both on Wednesday mornings so you are welcome to come to either one. After a time of prayer for our city, we’ll head out and back along Springwater Trail for an hour, then gather for a bit of reflection and fellowship before everyone goes out into their day.
I want to end with the quote that inspired this group: “Bid me run, and I shall strive with things impossible.” This comes from William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar, and was said by an individual who had been feeling sick but was inspired by the challenge of his friend to help end the tyranny of Caesar. He was inspired to join with others to change their world. My hope is that you can find a connection in this group, or another one at Imago Dei, to be part of changing the world.