>I set a new record for myself tonight: I ran 8.1 miles (at least according to mapmyrun.com, but that didn’t include the loop under the overpass). I’ve literally never run that far in my life. If you would’ve asked me two months ago whether I would ever run that far in my life, I’d probably have told you no. But I signed up for the half-marathon and having that goal in my mind has been forcing me to go running a couple times a week.
Its pretty cool running through the neighborhoods of northwest Phoenix at sunset. There’s this park around the corner from my house with a man-made lake in it bordered to the west by a huge wall that separates it from the freeway. Huge palm trees line the back side of the like in between the wall and the water. Whenever I turn the corner towards the park about a mile and a half into my run, I see the silhouettes of the palms against the sunset fire of colors, and all that combined with the faint whooshing of cars somewhere beyond the wall creates a moment that I don’t appreciate enough. The other night I had just finished asking God the question: “what do you think of me?” … a question that every now and then I have to come back to, and I turned the corner into the park… the sunset and the silhouettes and the sound of a dog barking and the reflection of the twilight evening sky across the water said enough; they said that maybe God in some mysterious way had made that moment just for me, had painted those colors across the landscape of the universe in that moment simply to watch me enjoy it.
Then there’s the smells in the evening. I love running by all sorts of different houses and smelling what they are cooking for dinner. Tonight someone was making BBQ, someone was definitely cooking burgers on a grill, someone was definitely smoking weed and burning incense. Then I ran by the restaurant strip and the smell of freshly grilled filet came drifting out of Angus Steakhouse, followed by the familiar seafood smell from Caribbean Cafe, the smell of nachos and chicken wings by Rock Bottom Brewery, and then my favorite: the smell of apple pie coming out of Mimi’s Cafe on 75th Ave. A lot of times I will smell something and it will take me to a place in my past … to my backyard in Kansas cooking burgers, to that BBQ place I ate at one time in Sedona.
About 6 miles into my run I started to feel the back of my hamstring start to cramp. My right foot started to hurt, and I suddenly felt a searing sharp pain in my head. It reminded me of two things: how I need to train right and eat right … I can’t just run as far as I can and expect to be ready for the race, and also of how frail my body is… just an ‘earthen vessel,’ a clay jar that’s wasting away. It made me think about that verse in the Bible that talks about those who wait on the Lord and how they soar like eagles and run without getting tired… I’ve always wondered about what the human body was like before sin entered the picture. What if people could run without getting tired? Adam and Eve would be talking about their vacation to Europe from Mesopotamia. “How do you want to get there?” Eve would ask. “We could run.” And they’d run barefoot all the way up through Asia and Greece without every getting tired or hurt.
And then there’s the quiet neighborhoods with Christmas lights up and man, some people went all out! Reminded me of when my dad would drive us around and search for houses with the best Christmas lights and call them “sights to behold.”
I don’t know if its because I don’t listen to an iPod or anything like that, but when I run I feel wide open to life… I feel as if those moments are where I get to hear and see in ways that I don’t otherwise. They remind me that this world and everything in it is filled with vestiges of lost glory that can only be enjoyed by the attentive heart. Its a glory that is all over the place, at the same time both fresh and new, ancient and primal. And there is something… magical about it all, like in all the stories where ordinary things possess extraordinary characteristics: a train station, a wardrobe, a cloak, where a moment you can be running along in the Phoenix suburbs and the next moment you can be bordering Hogwarts or Narnia or some other astonishing country the likes of which you’ve only dreamed or read stories about.
My only conclusion for those still reading (that have humored me this long) is that we are surrounded by glory: a world that drips and flashes with heaven, whispering rumors of a great Magician, Himself filled with the greatest glory of all, who seeks to break us all of the spell of busyness, mediocrity, and passionless living and open our eyes to a bigger Story that surrounds us on all sides. That, to me, is nothing short of incredible.
Did I mention that I love to run?