Monday, September 07, 2009

Running out of Duty and Obligation Sucks - My Affair with @runkeeper

Most people don't know this, but I'm not sure I enjoyed running all that much last year. I talked about it all the time, including how I started in April and ended up running my first 10k and half marathon by the end of the year. When I look back on my running last year, it was pretty miserable. I remember getting to the end of my half marathon telling myself, "I'll never do this again."

Running last year consisted of me measuring, charting and plotting, following programs pushing myself again and again. The joy for me wasn't in the run itself - it was in pushing myself, and seeing how hard and how far I could go. The joy for me was when my long run each week would grow from 4 miles all the way to 17, when my 3 mile time dropped from 36 minutes to 19 minutes. Short of the runners high I would get at the end of my route, the actual running part was rough. I had to listen to books on tape or podcasts so that I wasn't left to mull over the fact that I still had X number of miles left to go.

The funny thing is that this year, I love running in a way I never did before. I enjoy it during the run. I look forward to my runs. I know how far and how fast I can push myself, so that hasn't been the rush for me. I don't write down my runs any more (short of my runkeeper tweets, which everyone in my family seem to love), I don't consciously map out a course before I got for the run. I simply head out in a direction and go as far as I feel like running. For some reason, this changes everything. I have a rough pattern for the week - but nothing too rigid. I do a long run anywhere from 8-15 miles every week, a speed relay run and runs just to run. I'm running because I want to, because my heart feels compelled to run and to move. When I'm out running, I can run with or without music or podcasts, thinking, reflecting, but never hating the run I'm on, because at any time, I know I can turn around and end it - just because I want to.

Today, all that changed. For the first time all summer I sat down and mapped out a course of about 15 miles. I was trying to find a new course and wanted to be able to tell Cathie where I was running in the event that I didn't come home, she could go and find my body. I set out to run, not because I wanted to run 15 miles, but suddenly feeling like I HAD to run this course, HAD to run 15 miles. My heart wasn't in it. In the past I had run a similar course and remember smelling the smells, hearing the birds, noticing the farms and horses. This time, it felt dry and sterile. Does the heart really have this much to do with how we pursue something? Seems like it does for me. It got me thinking of other areas where the same concept applies.

Growing up, I reached a point growing in my faith where I was doing all sorts of good things (going to church, going to catechism class, learning good things and doing good things), but felt like I HAD to do them, and as a result, I resented them. When I was suddenly given the choice to go to a youth group on my terms, all the sudden it changed the whole context of things. I've often pushed myself to DO the kind of things on the outside that are good, decent, righteous things - but that only lasts for so long if I haven't been changed on the inside.

I'm gradually learning that Jesus came to set me free from a faith built on the pillars of duty and obligation, from doing the right things externally without the right kind of heart and being the right kind of person. I'm learning that when I give my life to Jesus, he changes my heart to one where these kind of actions naturally flow from. I've seen it in myself when I let go and stop trying to arrange my life just so, and allow God to change me inside. The more I focus on Jesus, the more my heart changes. Crazy, huh?

Contrary to what I'd said last year, I'm running a half marathon again this year and a 10k. I'm in better shape, I'm faster and can run distances with an ease I never thought I'd achieve. I'm interested in seeing how my times are this year, but I'm not as interested in breaking records, as seeing what naturally comes out of my training program this year.

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