A few years ago, I began mixing up my walking regimen with intervals of running, working my slow way up to running a mile at a time, and then—eventually—to four. And now I’m hooked.
I’ve experienced all the benefits that runners have long extolled—I sleep better, I have more energy, my heart and bones are healthier. (To say nothing of the boost in serum levels of complacency, which has been significant.) The real surprise, though, has been the way running has taken me to a whole new place in prayer—given me a deeper understanding of the promise of the Christian journey.
Now when I read St. Paul’s exclamation that he has “finished the race”—or the prophet’s promise that we shall “run and not be weary”—I feel the power of the images in the depths of my tendons. Which is odd, since I habitually cringe whenever I hear sports analogies in homilies. I have never warmed to anything remotely muscular in Christianity.
Partly this is due, no doubt, to my pre–Title IX youth, throughout which only boys were athletes, ladies didn’t sweat, and mothers never ran anything but the PTA. But mostly I blame Dante.
When I was an undergraduate, I took a class on Dante’s Inferno, which both fascinated and repelled me. I was particularly struck by the fact that the...