Much to my surprise, back in the late 1980s, my body taught me that running for exercise is fun.
Three years earlier, I took up running because it would be “good for me” and because I wanted to be in shape as I approached middle-age. I am not a “good” runner; I am not fast. I am something called a “mid-pack” runner. I would run relay races so other people would be counting on me, so I had to be out there running, whether I wanted to or not.
I began reading the literature of runners. One bit of advice is that you can run faster than you think you can during a race if you pick out someone ahead of you, then imagine casting a line and reeling that person in. Or the advice is to never accept weakness, or to never lose focus, or to push, push, push. OK, so you know the mindset.
After about two years of this, I determined to run my best 5K ever. (Setting a Personal Record is the goal for us mid-pack people.) From the start of that race, I kept my focus. I told myself I could run just a little faster. I could pick out people ahead of me and reel them in. And YES! I ran my best time ever. And although I had no fun at all during those 28 minutes, I had forced myself to do my best.
The next day, my left knee clicked. It hurt. It hurt a lot. All my leg muscles ached. It took a few weeks for my body to get back to “normal.”
I had a year to ponder that.
Then that same annual 5K race came around again. I was lined up waiting for the race to start, and the question came into my mind, “What are we going to do today?” The question arose spontaneously, and the “we” surprised me. My brain would be going along for the ride; my muscles and bones and lungs and heart would do the real work. It was “we,” not “I,” that would be running that race.
The race began, and I didn’t try to force anything. My legs chose the pace. I was working hard, but it was . . . fun!
Then I saw her: another runner who looked to be in my age category. She would be right for “reeling in,” and I thought about doing it.
But I remembered the previous year and decided not to reel her in, not to try and catch her. I relaxed. Then something near-miraculous happened. Without any intent, my legs began to run faster. I passed that other runner without apparent effort. My mind was quite surprised. My finish time was faster than the previous year’s. And I wasn’t injured.
My body knew what to do, without my mind having to instruct it. We ran a good race. Since then every race for me has begun, “Well, what are we going to do today? I’m along for the ride, so let’s have some fun!”
This whole experience has deepened my understanding of the meaning of “miracles.” A wise friend of mine, Glee Love from Multnomah Meeting, once responded to another Friend’s skepticism about the healing stories of Jesus with these words: “We access God through our bodies. Of course, Jesus would heal people. Of course, He would rise from the dead.” ~~~
Julie Peyton is a member of West Hills Friends.