As I lie in bed before falling asleep, the mental inventory of the day can take a toll, inevitably a combo of Jesus’ “these you ought to have done without leaving the others undone” and Paul’s ”I do not act as I mean to… the good things I intend to do, I never do.” 1 Among all the other omissions and commissions of modern life, it’s very healthy to have at least one personal victory each day. If that personal victory turns out to have mental, physical, and emotional benefits such as running does, so much the better. I’ve become much more of a runner in recent years than I ever was in high school or college. Consequently, I’ve thought more about President Kimball’s saying and taken more note of the various running metaphors in the scriptures.
Paul spent 18 months in Corinth, where the Isthmian Games were regularly held. It’s probably not a coincidence that he uses sports metaphors from running (Gal. 2:2, 5:7, Phi 2:16), as well as boxing (1Co 9:26), wrestling (Eph 6:12), combats (1Co 4:9, 15:32) and maybe chariot racing. 2
- “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things (ha!); they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.” 1Co 9:24-27
- “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Heb 12:1 (Not really Paul, btw.)
King Benjamin gives excellent training advice; run too fast, and you’ll burn out quickly and risk injury. Overtrain and you’re certain to injure yourself. On the other hand, not running at all or always running the same routines means you never improve.
- “See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” Mosiah 4:27
I ran track in high school, to get in shape for soccer season. I did sprints (100m, 200m, 400m), which don’t require much in the way of serious cardiovascular training the way longer events do. I’m amazed at the Olympic runners who run 3 miles and then can run their last lap faster than I ever ran a single lap (me, 57.2 in a 400m. Mo Farah, 52.94 at the end of a 5k.)
Go here if you want to see the whole thing. Darn good race.
Running faster over short distances means increasing your leg strength, increasing cadence in strides/minute (how fast your feet go), and making each stride longer. We did training towards each of those things; I vividly remember the coach shouting “stride out!” as we repeatedly tore down the track. President Kimball was famous for living his dictum to “lengthen your stride” meaning do more! Let me look at this from a runner’s perspective, and then see if I can shoehorn it back into a useful metaphor.
Running puts stress on the body, though it can be minimized. (What follows is a simplified and perhaps controversial discussion.) When walking, some weight remains on one foot while the other touches down; when you run, all of your body weight is transferred onto one foot, then the other. How that foot lands determines how the immense impact force is distributed. When you walk, you naturally land on your heel. The invention of running shoes in the 70s essentially consisted of putting a significant amount of cushioning in the heel, enabling one to run with a heel strike. This is not natural. Try running barefoot, and you’ll see why. Landing on your heel transfers all that impact force directly into your ankle, knee, and hip joints and muscles, removing half your leg from the equation. As it turns out, when people run without thick running shoes, they naturally land on their mid- or front- foot, which allows the foot muscles and calf to absorb and share all those impact forces. (Observe those shoeless toddlers next time they run down the church hallway. Or Harvard’s biomechanics lab. Many runners commit the biomechanic sin of over-striding. That is, not only do they heel-strike, but they do it with their foot far in front of their center-of-gravity. Their stride is too long. This creates higher stresses and more injuries.
As I’ve shifted from my early coached sprint training to longer racing, I’ve had to very consciously shorten my stride and change how I run. If I didn’t, I probably couldn’t run at all, as I got injured fairly often by running with that long stride. If you watch those Olympic runners vs. me, they definitely have longer strides and faster cadences than I do. But I am not an Olympic runner and at this point in my life, I’ve mostly given up that ambition.
Let’s return to the metaphor. I view life as a long race, not a sprint. I need to make sure I don’t go out too fast, like I’m running a 100m instead of the ultra-marathon life actually is. Burnout and injury are very real spiritual issues that sometimes people don’t come back from. Should I lengthen my stride, or will that injure me? Is my long strategy better served by shortening my stride but increasing my cadence? (That’s something else I’ve worked on.) Do I run too much in bursts and busts instead of easier but constant progression? Do we need a spiritual couch-to-5k-program in the Church? Or more customized coaching and evaluation guides, “you there, slow down! You over there, stride out a little more! You’ve got the capacity for it!” Interpret as you will. As for me, I’ve got a run to do.
And if anyone’s on the social areas of RunKeeper (website, not app) or TrainingPeaks, let me know. Nice to see friends out there.