Run, Don't Walk

Last week, the world celebrated Global Running Day, so this week I’m writing about the sport that I’ve slowly come to love.


I emphasize the word slowly very deliberately. I’ve been running on and off for probably six years, but it wasn’t until two or three years ago that I came to enjoy it. I should also add that I am very much an amateur runner. I’ll admit that to anyone, and proudly. I’ve never ran a marathon, and I likely never will. I can’t run that far, and I can’t run that fast. Yet I am a runner.


To me, it’s a lot like being an Orthodox Christian.


If you think about it, running is the easiest sport to take up: all you need is a pair of running shoes. Virtually anyone can run. Personally, I never played sports growing up, so I was never conditioned for cardio, but one day I decided to run a mile. I failed. But I continued to try.


Then, one day, I actually ran a mile.


Once I knew I could do it, I worked on my posture, breathing, and time. I’ve also learned a lot about what shoes to wear and what not to eat before a run (read: cafeteria burritos. Enough said). I know better than anyone that I am not good at this by any standards. But I’ve come pretty far from where I began.


For me, this failure and continuation and triumph and growth cycle perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be Orthodox.


When I first decided to go running, I wasn’t sure that I could do it. It seemed like a big commitment. It was similar to when I made the conscious decision to make Orthodoxy a central part of my life. I wasn’t sure that I could pray, fast, and attend Liturgy like I needed to. I have failed at those things just as much as I failed at running my first mile. Yet I don’t want to give up, because I saw myself grow through my failure as a runner, in the same way that I have seen myself grow through my trials as an Orthodox Christian.


It’s not easy, and it’s not pretty by any means. I can’t even begin to tell you how much pain I’ve been in as a runner, and as an Orthodox Christian. It’s a different kind of pain, but it’s pain nevertheless. Still, usually, the triumphs are worth what it took to get there.


Also, although I usually run alone, there have been times when I’ve gone running with friends, and it’s a great experience. It can either be humbling and inspiring, when someone needs to push me when I want nothing more than to give up. Or it can be an opportunity to inspire someone to keep going until the end of the mile. This is a lot like life in the Church. Mostly, I find myself being inspired by others, but there are also the moments that I take as a teaching opportunity to share what I know and to help others grow closer to God.


There’s a general sense of community among runners, even a virtual one (which is how I found out about Global Running Day in the first place). When I can’t physically run with my friends, we set up running challenges, which are a great way of staying in touch, and holding each other accountable; we want to talk about our triumphs and our rough days. This is the same community that I try to cultivate with other Christians. The people that I want to surround myself with are the ones that inspire me to continue.


To me, there’s no better kind of runner to be than an amateur runner. It means that I have so many opportunities for growth. The same goes for Christianity. I’ll never be a saint, but I should always try to be. I should always look to those role models for inspiration and guidance.


And now that I can run a mile, it doesn’t mean that I can stop running. Yes, there are times when I get bored and don’t want to continue, and yes, there are times when I don’t want to run at all.


These are the most important times to get out there.


Just because I know that I believe in God, I can’t just let myself stop there; I can’t stop growing closer to Him and learning about His works. There were, are, and will be times when I am bored in church, when I get tired, and when my mind is focused only on the difficulties of having faith. The only option is to continue to run...ultimately, closer to Him.


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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.