Growing up fundamentalist, my body was a constant source of annoyance and betrayal. It was a vile body, a body of death. It couldn’t be trusted. A woman’s feelings led her astray from God’s will and a woman’s curves led men astray into sin.
I was taught to systematically shut down my feelings. I was taught to ignore my gut instinct. I was taught to completely cover my body.
Yes, our bodies were temples but the way to honor a temple was by covering it up, hiding it away and ignoring it. We were spiritual beings. Our bodies were mere vehicles. It was the inner person that mattered. We liked to quote I Timothy 4:8: “Bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable for all things!”
I guess it’s no surprise, then, that for most of my life I was adverse to exercise. I hated sweating. I hated moving. I especially hated running.
Running, I believed, was for a select breed of human, naturally gifted with long legs and genetically elite lungs.
For most of my life I lived outside my body. I ignored and suppressed my feelings. I drank gallons of caffeine to make up for sleep deprivation. I ate a poor diet. I did not exercise. And I bore five children.
After the twins were born, my body was a wreck. My immune system went down first: I was susceptible to every cold, flu and virus that passed within a five mile radius of my house. My menstrual cycle went crazy: I bled for two weeks each month. I got depressed. I gained weight. I lost interest in sex.
This is what I’ve learned: my body is important. It is very important. My body is good. It is very good. How I feel is important. It is very important. My feelings are good. They are very good.
My feelings and my body tell me important things. It is detrimental to my physical and spiritual health to ignore and suppress the things my body and my feelings are trying to tell me.
One year ago, in addition to a physical breakdown, I was suffering a spiritual crisis. I was disillusioned. My usual method for restarting my spirituality was praying more, fasting more, reading Scripture more. Except this time, I couldn’t do that anymore. It wasn’t working.
I stopped praying. I stopped fasting. I stopped reading Scripture.
Instead, I went running.
I started getting up at 5am every morning, lacing up my shoes and attending bootcamp before sunrise. I hated it. I hated every minute. My mind told me things like: running is bad, exercise is dangerous, getting fit is vain, you’re being selfish, you’ll never keep this up, why do people do this? this is insane! You’re going to die! STOP. NOW.
I kept going. I didn’t listen to my mind.
Two weeks later, I saw the first change. I could run just a little farther. I had more energy each day.
About three weeks into bootcamp, I experienced my first runner’s high. It was like an orgasm. It was sensuous. My entire body and mind was flooded with brilliance. I had been awakened. My body was alive.
I don’t run for speed or medals. I run for the feeling. I run for the orgasmic exhaustion, the sensation of being utterly spent. I run for the sweat pouring down my face and for the pounding of my real heart. I run for my heaving lungs and burning muscles. I run to expend every last shred of stress. I run to cast off my past.
I run to find God.
I run because each time my feet hit the pavement, pain is transfigured to glory.