What Running Taught Me About Formation

In 2009 I started running - seriously.  And I hated it.

Well, my mind and heart hated it but my body lapped up the cardiovascular exercise like a dog to a puddle on an August day. Since I needed to shed several pounds, and the waistline disappeared as the mileage increased, I decided to run a marathon.

I trained and ran the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2010. I'll do it again too.

After the race however, I ran into life circumstances that threw me off that dedicated 30-40 miles a week schedule. Writing a doctoral thesis  and reintroducing myself to my family after committing to long Saturday runs turned what was a rhythm and a discipline into fits and starts of fitness.

The inconsistency didn't just affect my body, however. It affected my mind, my mood, my digestive system (I'll spare you the details). My attitude started to struggle, my optimism wavered, I began to think I had gained hundreds of pounds and moved around like a dumpster being pushed through wet concrete. It was all in my head, but my head was transferring it to my Spirit. All in all I learned a deep and powerful lesson:

Rhythms of discipline and practices are not just add-on events to the other things that go on in our lives. They are the source out of which the rest of our life is lived.

The implication here is that anchoring ourselves in abiding practices - spending time with God in solitude and in community, in serving and in praying, in advance and in retreat - will shape the rest of our lives. We are free to live without the fear of sin and failure, but we need reminders and times of training that strengthen our resolve against our natural disposition to say "I'm defeated. I can't do this."

What kind of "mileage" are you putting in through abiding practices like Scripture, prayer, solitude, silence and meditation? How are they shaping the rest of your life?