The other day I got home from work feeling tired, irrationally cranky, and utterly unmotivated. I kicked out of my work clothes, tugged on my running clothes, and headed out the door despite my lack of motivation, because…well, that’s what we runners do, isn’t it? We lace up even when we’re not in the most ideal condition or frame of mind and we get moving, confident in the power of the run to cure all, or at least put things in perspective.
This particular day was mild as far as winter days go, but with a good stout breeze. I began at a comfortable shuffling warm-up pace. I was following a familiar looping course near my house, with the breeze shifting from my face to my back and back to my face. Blocks turned into minutes, which turned into miles.
My pace didn’t change – if anything, I think it got slower. And my mood didn’t improve one bit. I chalk up the fact that I finished without taking any shortcuts to nothing more than stubbornness.
Let’s face it: some runs are just like that. Real life isn’t a Runner’s World ad. We don’t always attain a “runner’s high”; we don’t always have magnificent epiphanies; we most certainly don’t always look glamorous and serene. Some runs are just…runs.
What’s the point of them, then? Some people would call them “junk miles,” implying that they serve no purpose. They’re not speed workouts, and they’re not long tests of endurance. They’re not even gut-wrenchingly gritty experiences that we can take pride in (e.g. running through a downpour, or in sweltering heat, or in dire need of a bathroom).
It occurred to me after that run that maybe the point of these seemingly pointless miles has nothing to do with improving physical fitness, or honing skills, or bragging rights. Maybe the point of them is to exercise an entirely different muscle: faith.
The fact that we go running even when we don’t feel like it is a sign of faith, right? As I mentioned above, we’re confident in the power of the run to cure all. But that is just our faith getting warmed up! When the run comes to an end and all has not been cured, what happens then?
That’s when our faith muscle starts flexing. And we don’t even realize it.
What happens after an un-stellar run? Do we give up running? Do we say, “Ehhhh, forget tomorrow’s run; it’s a hopeless case”? No. We don’t give up. We get on with our lives, and when the time comes for the next day’s run, we lace up our shoes and step out again, because we have faith that not all runs will be like the one before.
When we’re in the middle of a run, whether it’s long or short, race or relaxation, and it starts to feel like drudgery, do we throw in the towel and just stop? Nope. Again, that’s the faith muscle going to work.
Faith is the muscle that keeps us going and brings us back. And I for one intend to start giving it a lot more attention – and respect.