Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

15 August 2013

Marathon Man [Of The Cloth]

In the profile section of this blog, I mention that I am a "dedicated runner." I graduated from power-walking in 1999, as part of an effort to change numerous undesired lifestyle habits. Over the years I have stepped away and returned, sometimes in favor of weightlifting (though you could never tell), sometimes in favor of laziness (then, you could tell).

In the past three years things have been getting pretty serious. Runs entered double-digit territory. I started reading books on running, including a terrific one called Running Shorts, written by Schuylkill County educator Joe Muldowney. I found A Running Start, a great place to buy gear and to get good advice. Last May I began to experience mild to moderate discomfort, but I am happy to say that, through the efforts of an orthopedist and a chiropractor, my condition has been improving.

You know how an idea can get stuck in your head? It seemed that everyone had run a marathon. "26.2" magnets passed me on the highway and in town. Even though I did one 5-miler while in the seminary and for the past three years have participated in a 5K that benefits a local religious community, I do not consider myself a competitive runner, neither against myself nor anyone else.

That said, having had enough of that pesky marathon bug, I decided to register for one. After a bit of research I found one that suited me because of its timing and proximity: the Lehigh Valley Health Network Via Marathon. It's coming up on 8 September, which happens to be Our Lady's Birthday and the ninth anniversary of my father's death. Those two persons are dear to me, so I will remember them happily as I put one foot in front of the other at (I hope) no less than a nine-minute-mile pace.

Speaking of pace, I would like to finish in under four hours. That would require a 9:09 pace. I suspect I'll be faster than that--perhaps 8:30 to 8:40, which would put me at around 3h45m. In order to do this, I can't "gambol like a calf out of the stall" (Malachi 4:2). No matter how fast I start, by mile 20 my legs will likely have the consistency of Cheez Whiz. Having completed one 20-mile run (my longest to date, ever) almost two weeks ago at about 8:15/m, and facing a 22-miler on Monday, this whole long-haul pacing thing is still rather new. Better to have run my first marathon slower than I could have, than to have started too quickly and "hit the wall" before hitting the finish line.

(Did I say "my first marathon"? Yes, I did.)

My commitment to running thus far has had terrific effects on my "numbers": body weight/body fat; cholesterol; blood pressure and pulse. It has also bolstered my psyche. Friends, family, and parishioners know that I can lapse into negativity and sadness very easily, despite many blessings, talents, and advances to which I can attest and for which I thank the Lord. I cannot imagine how it would be if I didn't run!

I must admit, then, that I'm not doing this simply to pacify a gnawing interest. Whether it's their first or hundredth (Joe Muldowney has over 50 behind him!), marathon runners can cite a great accomplishment in their lives. Whatever their pace, dedicated runners and walkers are doing something good for themselves. Best of all, because we are God's children and temples of His Spirit, we are attesting to a Creator whose creations can perform feats of tremendous strength and endurance.

I am blessed to be the Assistant Pastor of a parish who also has a retired priest helping out most weekends, which means that any of us can take a rare Saturday or Sunday off without having to scramble for coverage. (It will not always be so!) That's another reason why I don't do many races--they tend to be held on Sunday mornings, and I work on Sunday mornings! I may be the only Catholic priest competing in this marathon, but one never knows.

Since Via is a good cause, I agreed to raise funds. There's still time to donate, so click here if you're interested. Of course, prayers (for the cause and for my successful completion) are always gratefully received!

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