Monday, April 15, 2013

Running As Prayer, Prayer for Boston

Many of you know this about me: I am not a churchgoer. I, and many of my friends, attend the Church of the Open Road, although it is known by different names among different athletes. When I run, and when I bike, I often find myself deep in prayer. I almost never pray while swimming, probably because I am too busy breathing. But my moments of deepest connection with God have all come on the open road. So far, I have struggled with trying to write about these experiences, and I have more than a few unfinished draft posts for this blog that have not yet seen the light of day. It's hard to put something so personal and raw into words.

Today though, the prayers from this runner were for other runners and their friends and family, those struck by tragedy at the Boston Marathon. These are times when people of faith struggle with trying to understand evil and the desire to harm others. We struggle to have compassion for our enemies, when those enemies could do something as heartless as create a device that kills an eight year old child standing and cheering at the side of a finish line. My kids came to watch me run a marathon. They were six and nine. Thinking about your own kids being in the path of this kind of evil just socks you in the gut.

For athletes, this kind of tragedy hurts in another way. It may not be personal for us in the sense of knowing a victim, but almost all of us knew someone who was there today, or we might've been there ourselves, or have always longed to qualify to go there. This horrible act by some unknown person(s) becomes personal because it strikes at our sport, our passion, our camaraderie, the root of much that is good in our lives. For some of us, running has saved us from our own frailties and flaws - from obesity or drug abuse or smoking or character flaws that seem to go away (or at least be mitigated) after we hit mile a few miles out.

I had to take myself out of the house yesterday because I was so cranky and worked up and tense that I was about to go postal on my family, who were doing absolutely nothing wrong but were irritating me nonetheless. It was raining, cold, and miserable. I didn't want to lace up those shoes, but I knew it's what I needed to be sane, to be kind, to be a good mom and wife for the rest of the day. Sure enough, a few miles in and a few prayers along the way, my running remedy began to work. I came home renewed in spirit, if tired in body.

Maybe if the person who built this bomb could've gone out for a run, they would've felt differently about pressing the detonator. Maybe if when they ran, they saw God's presence in the drops of rain on the leaves, on the face of the old lady walking her old dog, in the kids running around the soccer fields, in the golden edges of the rainclouds, maybe then the pain or hatred in their lives wouldn't drive them to such depths of hell that they could do something like this.

So tomorrow I will put on a race shirt and run. I'll pray for the victims and their families, first and foremost. And I'll pray for all the runners for whom tragedy interrupted their much-anticipated moment of personal triumph, something they had been training for a year or a lifetime. I'll also pray for the person or people who did this, that they will find something in their lives to banish the darkness. Something like running has been for so many of us.

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