I never set out to be a “runner”. In fact, I always thought they were a bit of a strange lot. But today running has become a big part of my life, and one of my goals for 2020 is to run a marathon in under four hours. So what happened?
In July 2018 I needed a dramatic health kick. I was well over 17 stone and dangerously close to being in the BMI “morbidly obese” category. I’d enjoyed becoming a father for the first and second time, but also “enjoyed” a poor diet, too much alcohol and a real lack of exercise.
On return from a school pilgrimage from Rome, having struggled with the heat and walking – and fitting into my XL shirts – I decided I needed a life change.
The first attempt out was a mile and a half, and I genuinely thought I was having a heart attack. I needed a plan – so later that week, I registered myself to run a half-marathon six months down the line.
If I say I’ll do something, I will. I also knew I had not been looking after my body, and I was reminded of a verse that I had often taught my students: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
I started to run two or three times a week, gradually improving, and managed a respectable time of 2:08 for the race. By this point, I knew I had the running bug.
I’d also now realised that running gave me great enjoyment. I was getting faster, could run longer, and I recovered quicker. This was fun! As well as the health and weight benefits (I’d already lost about three stone at this point; I eventually shed six), I realised it also helped provide the space and time to think things through, or to clear my mind and do some “unthinking”. Physically and mentally I felt better after every run – especially the long ones.
Running off-road is something I particularly enjoy. Nothing beats the view at the top of a hill you have just run up. There is a great sense of oneness with the world when you are running, as you become conscious of your breathing, the natural rhythms of your body and the scenery around you. It’s a great way to explore, and to see familiar places in a very different way. It also naturally leads to a better diet and other lifestyle choices.
Meanwhile, the extra time is perfect for listening to podcasts (Catholic Stuff You Should Know and Pints with Aquinas are two of my favourites) and audiobooks: I’ve used this opportunity to listen to a wide variety of texts, including many that enriched my faith.
There are hundreds of reasons you can find to not run – but getting out and putting one foot in front of the other will make you feel so much better.
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