How I Found Spiritual Peace in My Running Routine

This author deepened her faith by using running as a spiritual practice. Read how a running community helped that.

I grew up playing lots of different sports: soccer, tennis, softball, and then field hockey in high school. For every sport I played, running was always the punishment. Oh, you’re late to practice? Go run five laps. People were goofing off when the coach was talking? Go run hills. We lost a game we should’ve won easily? You better bet we had to run sprints after the game.

My field hockey coach junior and senior year in particular had a saying: pain is temporary; pride is forever. It was ingrained in us. Running was what we did when we were not proud — it was just painful (and necessary, so we would be the “best conditioned” team).

It wasn’t until I got to college and didn’t play sports anymore that I turned to running on my own. I finally approached it as its own sport, not as the result of my mistakes in practice. I wasn’t timed, yelled at, or threatened by anyone to do it. There was no objective except to move my body and explore the campus and neighborhoods surrounding my college.

With a friend from my dorm who became my running buddy, I started running fairly regularly. I ran a 5K on campus, then signed up for a 10K, and finally a half marathon. Slowly, running had become my “thing.”

Amid the busyness of classes and clubs and studying, running was a time to be away from all the noise and be alone with my thoughts. I stopped bringing my phone and often didn’t even listen to music. Instead, I talked to God about what was going on in my life and in my heart.

Running transformed into a sacred, spiritual space for me. I turned to running around the lakes on campus to find my center, my inner peace. It felt separate from the scheduled hours of school. I could slow down and let my mind take a break while my body found its rhythm.

I met my friend, Grace, in graduate school. We talked about our mutual love of running and what it had taught us over the years: patience, perseverance, discipline, and commitment. It had also shown us both a new way to pray and to speak comfortably with God. Sometimes that talk didn’t even require words; our feet on the pavement were enough.

From conversations like this and a jolt of inspiration from Grace, we began working on the idea for an Instagram account called SoleFaith. We both wanted a way to connect with other runners who felt the way we do. We hoped to share our appreciation for this sport, so often seen negatively.

The training, and early morning runs, and runs in the rain, or injuries and setbacks — all of it had taught us something important about life and about faith. C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” We hope that SoleFaith is the connection point for people to discover friends who feel the same way about running — who see its potential to teach us, shape us, and form us into better runners, better believers, and better people.

We started this Instagram account to encourage one another in fitness and faith (and in trying not to eat ALL the chocolate), as our bio says. We share insights on what inspires us on our runs, reminding us to stop and appreciate nature. We post about the ways Scripture helps us reflect on what’s going on in our lives and training. We enjoy a meme or two about the ugly trials of running, such as losing toenails and the glory of setting a PR. We try to approach each day and each run by #runningwithspirit. We’re inspired by men and women who work at their jobs, who raise families, who study hard, and still find time to go for their runs and say their prayers.

And this year, we’ll be planning and offering a retreat following a local marathon. We have an incredible lineup of speakers, fitness leaders, and local supporters who are helping to make the post-race retreat a fruitful and fun experience. It has all come about by paying attention to what was going on inside of me when I was running, and finding one other person who felt the same way. From there, it’s just a matter of inviting others to join us.

I’ve come a long way from my high school days of putting running in a box. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from running, for how it makes me feel strong, and for the time it gives me to care for myself. I’m excited for this community to grow and reach more people who can find a home with others, like Lewis says, who thought they were the only one.

So whether you’re new to running or have several marathons under your belt, we hope you’ll reach out to find others who have discovered how running feeds our souls.

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