This essay is part of our summer series called “Running for His glory,” focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Gloryanna is a dear friend, whom I met through an online writers community called Hope*writers. She and I have connected on a variety of topics, including writing, mothering, marriage, and running. In this essay, she shares about how she started out running for all the wrong reasons. I’m sure many of us can relate!
By Gloryanna Boge
“Just try to stay with her as best you can,” Coach said as she staggered us on the track.
I was in lane two with my eyes locked on the feet in lane one. Lane one was a senior and she was one of our fastest runners – that much I knew as a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed seventh grader.
Coach wanted a few of us to run a timed trial of the 200-meter dash. Mainly we were bodies to give the senior a practice run. I had never run 200 meters on a track before in my life. I went to a small, Christian school so pretty much everyone was expected to go out for track.
There I was completely inexperienced and unsure of myself. My heart beating nervously.
But I was excited.
I have loved running ever since I could race the kids around the block in my neighborhood.
That hot spring day on the track, I had the chance to see if I was any good.
Coach blew the whistle and we took off. I don’t remember how many of us were on the track that afternoon, probably only three or four. I remember staying as close as I could to the senior, within arm’s reach of her back.
I remember no one else passed me that day. I also remember Coach saying I’d train with the senior for the 200 meters as our second runner.
I became competitive in our Christian school track community. I thrived every spring when we lined up for repeats on the track. I won some races and broadened my training as I took on more events. By the time I was a senior, I had a small box filled with medals from various races. A little space for my pride to sit nice and safe.
I ran for the medals, to stand on the pedestal when I was done. I ran to feed my young teenage ego.
If I knew then what I know now about running, I’d tell that seventh-grade teenage girl to pace herself. I’d tell her running would open doors she never knew were closed. Doors that only the grace of God could pry open.
When I was in college, I ran to stave off the Freshman Fifteen. I’d binge eat as I studied for exams and wrote essays late into the night. Then I’d wake up the next day filled with guilt about eating all the food. So, I’d punish myself with a four-mile run.
Running became a cleanse that only left my heart feeling more soiled than before.
After college, I got married. During the first five years of my marriage I wrestled with resentment, unhappiness, and depression. I worried about sharing my fears with friends because I didn’t want to trash talk my marriage. I didn’t want my marriage to have a different image than what I presented to the world. I stressed about what my heart felt and wondered if I was a bad Christian.
My heart filled up with questions and concerns. I had no one I wanted to turn to. So, I’d get up in the morning and run. I’d come home from work and run some more.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but God met me in those stress-related runs. God used the rhythm of my feet on the pavement as a path to clear out the lies I had about my husband.
When my mother passed away a few years ago, I was numb with grief. There was a window of time when I pushed grief away and numbed myself with busyness in order to avoid the pain.
Guess what helped break down the walls of grief?
Going for a run.
When your feet hit the ground and your heart rate increases, when the sweat starts to roll, your mind starts to clear. And when your mind starts to clear of all the lies from this world, you make space to hear God’s voice. To listen to his truth.
I find God’s truth that smashes the lies the Enemy feeds me about my marriage.
I find strength in knowing God grieves with me.
My box filled with medals collects mostly dust these days. I let myself enjoy that piece of cake without counting the calories I would need to burn in a run the next day.
Life without running feels empty. Each time I get that 30 minutes or an hour to myself, I find rest in the embrace of the Holy Spirit. I find his voice and my heart attunes to his words.
I hear God say, “Surrender. Stay with me as best you can, Gloryanna.”
I surrender all the wrong reasons and in exchange, God reminds me that I am His. He tells me I am not defined by how many miles I’ve covered, but that my identity is grounded in being a child of the King.
Gloryanna is learning to look to Jesus for growth instead of Google for fixes. She encourages women to reclaim their faith from the noise of this world so they can focus more on Christ. Join her on Facebook or Instagram. Read more at www.gloryannaboge.com/blog.
-In “How running provided healing during mental illness,” Abigail Alleman shares her personal story of how running provided an avenue for her to continue healing during dark seasons.