Running has long been used by religious writers and homilists as a metaphor for our spiritual journey. There are many verses in the Bible that include references to running - often in the context of a journey or a need to persevere. For example, in the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer exhorts us to "run, with all endurance, the race for which we are entered" (Heb. 12:1b).
This connection of the spiritual and physical is not a stranger to some dedicated runners. "Running is something I do to glorify God," said Alexis Woita, a student for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I personally think running is a great way to connect with your faith, the beauty in nature, evangelizing with others while running, and just a great way to stay healthy with the body God gave us."
This year Alexis ran her third half-marathon. Last year, she completed her bucket list dream of running a full marathon here in Lincoln. The Lincoln Marathon is an annual event that has gained more and more popularity throughout the 37 years it has been hosted by the city. Within hours of opening registration, 12,500 people (including Lincoln's Bishop James Conley) committed to the training and discipline it takes to run a half or full marathon. However, the race isn't just about the pain and competition of the runners across town. "You see kids lining the streets cheering on their moms and dads," as Alexis reflected on her favorite part of running the half, "and complete strangers screaming your name to keep going!"
With the vast amount of training, aching muscles, last minute preparations, and attention leading up today's event, it can be easy to lose track of the spiritual dimension. To help keep her focus on God, Alexis found ways to keep her attention on the most important things. "I love running for special intentions or people, because when you run those long runs you feel the pain start to kick in and you want to quit about halfway through. But when you have that special intention in the front of your mind, you offer all the pain and suffering up for that." This year, she had a special intention: her parents. "My parents...are the reason I am so strong in my faith. These two amazing people have made me into the person I am today," Alexis wrote before she began the race this morning.
As Alexis and the other thousands of runners finish their day (some perhaps with ice and pain killers), they can draw comfort and strength from St. Paul's exhortation to St. Timothy: "I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have redeemed my pledge; I look forward to the prize that is waiting for me, the prize I have earned. The Lord, the judge whose award never goes amiss, will grant it to me when that day comes; to me, yes, and all those who have learned to welcome his appearing" (2 Tim 4:7-8).