“I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Those who’ve seen me run know that these words aren’t mine — I am definitely not what you’d describe as “fast.”
These are the words of Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, and I’ve loved them since high school, when I first saw the movie and first started running. This weekend, my husband Mo and I ran by what I fondly think of as the Chariots of Fire house in Port Townsend, Washington (where the movie Office and a Gentleman was filmed). We did a training run along the course of the Rhody Run, a 12K run held in May as part of the Rhododendron Festival, which is a fun-filled weekend that celebrates the state flower and includes a parade and carnival on Saturday, followed by the run on Sunday.
Each year during the Rhody Run, this particular house sets up a roadside boom box with the famous Chariots of Fire tune blasting as runners stumble, sprint or walk by at about mile 5 1/2. (Folks there also hand out champagne, but I’ve never stopped for a cup). Whenever I hear the song as I go by —or at any other running event, for that matter—I get a lump in my throat. I think of this quote. I see the image of Eric Liddell running gracefully (and fast) down the beach, doing what he did best, glorifying God in the process and it moves me to near tears (it’s hard to totally break down when you’re running, although I’ve come close a couple of times).
Since I’m not particularly speedy, I have my own take on this quote, one that rings a bit truer to me: when I run, I feel God’s presence. When I’m out on the streets of Mill Creek or Snohomish alone, I see Him in a blazing red and orange sunrise that begins its crawl in the East. He’s in the light dusting of snow on an early-March day that falls softly and peacefully to echo my mood. I see Him in the evergreen trees that line the streets and dot the parks: strong, tall and steadfast. I talk to Him. Sometimes I ramble. Sometimes I’m specific. It is my time to say thanks, for the simplicity of being alone and taking in His creation. I also try to listen. He’s out there with me, day after day, minute by minute, mile after mile.
What I’ve discovered recently is that the beauty of a training run is that it gets me out running when I don’t want to be — I run when I just plain don’t feel like it. When I have a goal or an event that I’m training for, it makes me jump out of bed —late—the Monday after the Daylight Saving Time change to hit the road with huge gusts of wind pushing me back and drops of rain pelting my face. It makes me run a little bit quicker so I can get home to make sure my Second Grader arrives at school on time. It gets me off the couch on a lazy Saturday morning to enjoy some time with my husband, as we pass by the Chariots of Fire house and reminisce. When I have a goal, I run more. And when I run, I feel God’s presence. It’s one more opportunity, another invitation, to spend time with Him.
This weekend, as the quiet solitude of my training run is replaced by the raucous festivities of Portland’s Shamrock Run and I join 31,999 others to tackle the hilly streets, I will head South inspired by the music, words and images of Chariots of Fire —and the experiences that await when we just get out and run.