This Saturday I’m off with a friend to run 92km on the Waterford Greenway (there and back). The original plan was to run an ultramarathon in the English Peak District with another friend, but as he pulled out with a couple of months to go, I thought it made far more sense to go local. Added to the fact it’s a flatter route that won’t need so much planning, and will draw a few friends to support, it seems like a fun way to do it!
Doing 92km has the advantage for me of being a slow plod (9km/hr being the rough plan). It’s been one of the beautiful things the training has taught me. For once I’ve been able to leave my watch and running Apps behind, and have just been able to enjoy running and the scenery around me, for its own sake, rather than always pushing for new PBs or times. It also means it’s easier on the body, not to mention the trails being better for the joints too, rather than the tarmac roads of many marathon runs.
I would happily just do it for the fun of doing it, but as everyone seemed to think it was a worthy feat, I thought I’d also raise some money for charity while I do it. You can read my story of why I’m raising for Diabetes Ireland and Christian Unions Ireland by clicking here (for DI) or here (for CUI).
A final question I’ve been asked by some who’ve seen me posting about this: how do I stop it becoming all about me when I’m fundraising and constantly mentioning the feats I hope to achieve?
There’s something self-depreciating about the Irish mentality that we always struggle to mention ourselves in any context of achievement. Perhaps that also is true for many Christians too, as we want our mantra to be “Soli Deo Gloria” (to God’s Glory alone) rather than receiving any honour ourselves. Often we beat ourselves up about things, or try and put on a false humility (which is as bad as pride) saying “oh I’m not really any good at all” after we’ve achieved something special.
But the Christian good news isn’t devoid of human means. It’s not a dualistic message that declares our physical bodies and achievements to be nothing on this earth, and our spiritual immaterial state to be everything. We are embodied people. And the gospel comes embodied to us in the person of Christ, with a very real message of renewal and transformation, using weak, earthy means.
And so I’m freed to celebrate human achievement in this world, and to strive to try things to enjoy this world around us. Not as my primary aim in life, but as a reflection of God’s goodness towards us, that he allows humans to cultivate and bless this world by developing it and seeking to look after it. And so along with GK Chesterton, I don’t just say grace (thanks) when I eat my food, but when I watch a film at the cinema, when I see something of beauty in this world, or when I get to have the thrill of endorphins rushing through my body after a long run.
I was reminded of this yesterday as I went for my final longer run in the Wicklow mountains before the big race. Approaching the top of Powerscourt Waterfall, I was joined by these two creatures for a brief distance. Though I’m not sure we were well matched for pace.
It reminded me of how the old prophet Habakkuk finishes his book (chapter 3):
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
17 Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.