As I laced my Nike running shoes tonight I thought about how impractical it was for me to be running in an atmosphere where the temperature hovers at 90 degrees, with equal amounts of humidity. All day, I have walked outside only to be met with a fiery inferno, except that a fiery inferno would be dry heat.
I began running in April of 1991, my first year of college, when I was 19 years old. I am now 33, and am still startled that I feel like pulling lycra and Spandex over my thighs, and that then I have the audacity to show said thighs in public. Further, I am shocked that I have remained devoted to running, even if it is only a measly 3 mile route, when it once was five.
The reasons I began running I shamefully admit, were not for the exhilarated "high" most runners feel, not for the unity with nature, or because Oprah told me to, but rather because I felt uncomfortable with my body image (imagine--feeling uncomfortable in your body at 118 lbs?!?). For a few years the running was an obsession, an activity I attacked almost angrily. Slowly, my running mellowed into a slightly more, dare I say, relaxing jaunt, sort of like taking my head on vacation, while my body did all the hard work.
When I pastored a church in North Manchester, Indiana my congregants in that small community could tell when it was my week to preach, based on how many days that week they'd seen me running along the country roads or small-town avenues, muttering to myself. I did my best sermon preparation on those back roads. I prided myself on how muscular my legs were during the Lenten season.
Today I felt nervous as I stretched my hamstrings, and adjusted the cords on my newly acquired portable headphones. With trepidation my feet pounded into the sidewalk of our neighborhood the syncopated rhythm with which I am so familiar. Why the case of nerves? I don't know. Perhaps it is instead an anxious excitement as my muscles prepare, as I feel the embodied energy of the Spirit.
In the last half mile of my run, I began to tire. The sun silhouetted my body on the pavement as I ran eastward. I didn't plan to have my shadow in front of me, the sun to my back as I struggled up the last hill, but I have found that it is the perfect motivation. I watch the girl who has become woman in front of me, her ponytail swinging and try to catch her. My body has changed. My hips have widened, where they once were slim. That ponytail has gotten shorter, where it once brushed my back. The Spirit, though, has fired us both. The Spirit, though, reminds me that we are one. Thanks be to God.