Monday, December 19, 2005

Can long runs bring you closer to God?

I'm a big fan of the runners high. I think it is a spiritual and physiological journey that is best explored rather than explained. But if you prefer a guided tour, here's a class you can take at North Andover Catholic College/Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, called "The Spirituality of Running". Dr. Warren Kay designed the class to look at such traditional religious acts as prayer, sacrament and pilgrimage and draw parallels to running. You can find an interview and story here.

Here's an excerpt:

"(Running) is not a break from reality but an escape to reality," Kay said. "This is what the course is about."

Merrimack College student Jim Nugent had an awakening at some point during the class that was, if not profoundly spiritual, at least surprising. He learned to love running.

"I hated running through high school," said Nugent, who played football and baseball. "Running was a punishment in sports."

But Kay's reading assignments and class discussions got him thinking about how running has a lot in common with, for example, a traditional religious pilgrimage. It involves movement, Kay said, as well as simplicity of dress, a sense of fellowship with people around you and a temporary release from the social ties of life, work and school.

And, Kay said, like a sacrament, running can be a way to experience a tangible, outward physical sign of inward grace and sacred reality.

That's pretty cool! And yes, he does talk about the point in the race where you pray for it to end. ;oP

(JC goes trail running with some pals; figurine available at!)

I hope you're all having a great holiday season. I got some snowshoeing in yesterday at Tahoe, and my hip flexors are now reminding me that it may look like running, but it ain't running.




  1. Looks like Jesus could use some Injinji socks with those shoes. Maybe a tsak too? 8^D

  2. I've always found that running 40 miles or further is more of a spiritual experience than a physical one.
    The type of spiritual experience that you have is usually based upon your belief system or upbringing.

  3. I think there is a lot of truth to feeling more spiritual while running - closer to God or whatever your higher power may be.

    Having said that, that figurine cracks me up every time I see it. Oh my goodness.

  4. I also find this topic very interesting. I wanted to read the article you mentioned, but the link didn't take me to it.

    Here's hoping that everyone finds the time this holiday season to get in some of those quality spiritual runs.

  5. It looks like the Salem News only keeps a few days of info up on their site, and they took down the story. I'll see if I can get a copy...

    Sorry about that.


  6. Hi there

    Great post. I tryed to write about the same kind of thing the other day. Its very hard to explain..



  7. A very topical book I just finished addresses this issue quite well - Playing in the Zone: Exploring the Spiritual Dimensions of Sport. While it may not speak specifically of God, or Jesus handing you the baton, it possesses the best descriptions of what I experience on the trail.

  8. It is funny to find you in 2020, but these truths stand the test of time. At 53, I have come to see trail running as an outward spiritual journey. Finding one's footing, literally and spiritually.


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