This essay is part of our summer series focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Danielle and I connected through the Hope*writers group online. She brings a unique perspective to the table on how running found her as a young adult and shapes her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.
By Danielle E. Morgan
In high school, I tried running to try and stay fit. My mom was a decent runner, and my oldest brother ran track. I hated it. It was all I could do to muster the ability to run one mile. It took me longer to run one mile than it would take my whiny preschooler, but I ran that mile and felt so accomplished.
But I hated running. I even remember telling my mother one day in pure frustration that I would never ever be a runner.
Never once would I have imagined that one day I’d run a marathon, hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, participate in the Ragnar Trail Relay two separate years, and that at the end of the day, from season to season, running would become something I needed deep in my bones.
I never set out to become a runner; it was just something that sort of happened to me. I always say “running found me.”
Twelve years, before I had any children, I set out one summer to get myself healthy. I was dealing with high cholesterol that my endocrinologist was adamant I take care of. The freshman 15 I had put on in college turned into the senior 25. Then I had three years of marriage combined with a full-time job, in which I developed a lifestyle of eating out a lot and no regular exercise.
My motivation to get healthy was pretty high because of the health risk I was facing. My doctor had encouraged me to start exercising and being intentional about the things I ate. Due to my unique issues with cholesterol, I was able to consult with a nutritionist to offer guidance and tools along the way.
I faced each day with one goal in mind: I was going to move my body for 30 minutes and be consistent five days a week.
We had just adopted a black lab who needed a ton of exercise, so I put him on a leash and woke up every morning at 5:30am to take a 30-minute walk. If you think I’m crazy for getting up that early, you aren’t the only one.
It was July in Arizona, and if you want to exist outside for more than 5 minutes without getting heat stroke, then you will wake yourself up before the sun does.
I walked every day, Monday-Friday, and it became a regular part of my routine. After losing 12 pounds in six weeks, I was hooked. I had no idea I could lose 12 pounds, and now I was seeing my consistency produce a reward. It felt so good.
I kept walking and lost 35 pounds by the end of four months. I was a new woman. I had to buy new clothes and throw out the old ones. For the first time in my life, I owned my confidence and wasn’t pretending anymore.
I started to get addicted to exercise. I knew it was good for me, and even more so, I knew that I never wanted to go back to that person I was before it all started.
Then something happened. The walking became easy. I wasn’t getting the same sort of sweat I had gotten before and I realized in order to get my heart rate up and utilize the 30 minutes best, I needed to pick up my pace.
One day, I just started jogging. I thought, “I’ll just run until I’m uncomfortable, and then I’ll walk.”
The first time I tried running, it lasted maybe 30-45 seconds. So, I listened to my body and resumed my walking pace until I felt good enough to go again.
After a few weeks of off-and-on running and walking, I jogged the entire half hour. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. How was it that I was running – by choice!? And that was just the beginning…
When I look back on the past 12 years, I am deeply blessed that running found me.
Running for me is like writing; It fills up my soul with its richness, but requires grit and tenacity. It’s deeply hard and life-giving at the same time.
Running has been woven into the very fabric of my motherhood as I’ve bonded over hundreds of miles with my children. It’s also been the perfect escape for me. Running is my personal retreat when I’ve needed to unpack the heaviness of life and allow God to work through my literal breathlessness.
There is something powerfully divine about the places your feet can take you. It’s different when you experience a firm foundation under your own two feet, because getting somewhere requires strength, endurance, and pure fight.
When you find yourself standing over a bridge overlooking miles upon miles of road, or in the bottom of a canyon with unending hills to climb before you see the top, you realize then and there that you are so very small and God is so very big.
And yet, He invites us in. He crafted these heights and depths for our very enjoyment and has allowed runners to experience Him through nature in a uniquely glorious way – a way that fills our soul and gives life to our bones.
Running is a holy experience, a collision of the physical and spiritual in a supernatural way. It allows us to experience God through the lens of breathlessness and grit as we rely on Him for every step.
To me, running is the perfect picture of what life is. It’s less about the destination and more about our reliance on a Holy God as we embark on the journey. There are many roads and pathways your feet will carry you, but as you trust in Him, He will guide and direct your steps along the way.