Worship - the reverent love accorded a deity. The ceremonies, prayer or acts by which this love is expressed. To show honor and love. It is also the act of sharing common reverence and love with others. This definition does not include a time or place. Worship is merely an act that can be performed anywhere and at any time. Be it in a church, an empty football stadium, or a long lonely road before the sun rises. I grew up believing worship took place inside four walls at appointed times with definite parameters and rules for participation. As I have matured in age and thinking, studied and participated in many different forms of worship my beliefs have changed. My favorite cathedral, the place I feel closest to God and most worshipful is not inside four walls in concert with other people, but rather is in the woods and most often alone.
A long run is the perfect way to spend some time in prayerful, communion with the creator. The one who loves me unconditionally and is always present to hear my complaints, praises, secrets and confessions. As I run hymns of praise, prayers of thanksgiving and petitions both personal and for friends run through my mind. A long run strips you down to the bare bones and leaves you vulnerable and open to the hearing the voice of God.
So how exactly is a long run like worship? On my last run "The Doxology" was on a continuous loop in my brain...."Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him all creatures here below; Praise Him above you Heavenly Hosts; Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost." Totally fitting as my runs almost always begin with prayer. Prayers of thanksgiving for seeing me and my family safely through the night and blessing us with another day. For giving me a partner in life, love, fitness and health who totally "gets" me. For friends who share goals and dreams and time on the trail. For the beauty of the woods, songs of the birds waking up, the sunrise over the trees, the deer and other wildlife that cross my path as I run. I utter prayers of petition for safety as I run. For God to protect me and my running partners from the pitfalls of the trail; roots, holes, thorn bushes and creepy, crawling creatures.
Running is also a time to face some demons. Satan will always attack when we are at our most vulnerable and long distance running puts one in a vulnerable physical and mental state. All of my inadequacies and shortcomings are brought into view. It is very easy to start the comparison game....I'm not fast enough, strong enough, tough enough, etc., and even more juvenile thoughts that are too embarrassing to actually list here. Never mind that my mile pace is faster than this time last year or that my feet and knees are stronger and not putting me on the sidelines because of injury...I'm still not satisfied because I'm still slower than others. The list goes on and on and could completely ruin a beautiful run if allowed to go unchecked. I always say that long distance running is as much, if not more, mental as it is physical. Trust me you will be mentally tested on a long run through the woods. This is where prayers of petition are extra important. Prayers for help to take every thought hostage and change its course. God is always faithful to remind you of your strength, stamina, determination and desire to improve and finish strong. When asked He will always provide what is needed to accomplish all our goals.
At the end of the run, no matter where we finish, someone is there to offer encouragement, praise, water, nutrition, whatever we need. Running partners are the greatest friends and sometimes family a person can have. Like a congregation of worshippers is faithful to show up for Sunday services, running partners are always faithful to show up for a training run, travel to races together, provide emotional, mental and physical support, whatever is needed.
Hopefully I will see you on the run...maybe even in my favorite cathedral on a Sunday...maybe even a Saturday...