Friday, August 31, 2012

Sunday Ritual - What are you training?

I recently came across an entry on's staff blogs entitled My Weekend Ritual . Given the title of this blog, I'm sure it's no surprise why it caught my attention.

In the article, author Mario Fraioli, a senior producer at Competitor and beastly runner, describes his Sunday workouts and what they mean to him.

The part of the article that most caught my attention was Mario's claim that "[his] Sunday routine isn’t much different from  [his] friend who attends services with his family and then heads out for coffee and pastries afterward." Before I dive into my opinion on this, let's look at Mario's reasoning:

"... for me, running long on Sunday morning, either with others or sometimes by myself, is a form of worship and a time of reflection. It’s how I choose to celebrate life and appreciate the beauty of the world around me. Like my non-running friends who do attend weekly religious services, every weekend I’m introduced to new friends, gain insight into a variety of different issues and inevitably learn something new about myself."

The running community looks at the long Sunday run and the gatherings after as the perfect opportunity to commune with fellow runners, get in some good training and escape from the general pace of life for a few miles. Next to the chance to look studly at the local 5k, it's one of the biggest selling points for recruiting new members to our crazy little hobby.

The similarities of these two happenings are many: a gathering of people, atypical clothing, and the possibility of self discovery. However, the claim that running and church-going are analogous doesn't quite work for me. Here's why:

Impetus - The act of corporate worship is something Christians (should) do out of obedience. Hebrews 10:25 encourages us to "not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another" and Acts  reminds us that the early Church is a model to follow in terms of meeting together regularly. Running groups are formed, usually, out of a personal desire to have fun, acquire some motivation or just to be social. So as one event is done out of obedience and the other out of pleasure driven choice, the two are dissimilar.While I do think a group of believers could worship God while running and successfully build each other up in the faith as they click off the miles, I don't think that is what is being discussed in the article.

Purpose - The purpose of corporate worship is to give honor and glory to God. He defines the worship experience, not the worshipers. Weather we enjoy it or not, weather we feel like it or not, Christians owe it to our Creator to pay Him homage. The purpose of the Sunday run, however, is a blend of personal enjoyment and improving bodily health. God certainly wants his children to be happy and healthy, but that doesn't mean acts that lead one towards health or happiness are necessarily worship.

Presence Matthew 18:20 points out another important distinction. Matthew tells us that, unlike worshiping the sea while swimming or nature while trail running, God is with His followers as they worship Him. One can only be in the sea or among nature. God isn't off in the distance receiving praise; He participates in worship. As the Holy Spirit moves in the heart of worshipers, He personally interacts with his followers.

Although I do see the similarities, and although I certainly enjoy both running and corporate worship, I don't think I can support the claim that running groups are anything more than seemingly similar to worship groups. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Running Podcast from Clif Bar - Of Pace and Faith

Hello, my name is Phillip and I'm addicted to Clif Bars.

If you run, bike, climb, tri, or otherwise exhaust yourself, you know what a Clif Bar is. Many of you practically keep yourself going with these things. And why not? What could be sweeter, literally, than finishing off a nice trail run with the taste of "roasted macadamia nuts and scrumptious white chocolate chunks"? Dig the propaganda!

It's rare that my favorite foods get paired with technology.
The hamburger phone... eh, only so-so in my opinion.

So I'm thanking the tech-gods for this little find: Clif Cast Podcast Series. Basically, Clif Bar is publishing a podcast series on all thing related to running - health, training, nutrition, etc.

I think Clif is doing a great job with this series. The Ian Sharman one was most entertaining, and I found the Protein and Insights from Afar episodes very informative.

The quality is great and they keep things light, so there easy to listen to. If you're already pretty well read and experienced on these subjects, you won't learn a ton of new stuff, but the advice is solid.

So the next time you need a dose of running "shop talk", but can't find another endurance nut to jaw with, grab your ear buds and give Clif Cast a try.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ryan Hall - Christian Runner or Running Christian

American distance runner Ryan Hall has been in the news a lot in recent months. Leading up to the London Olympics, he did several interviews that centered on his controversial coach: God. Yes, Hall is "self-coached" but he claims that he's not really alone. This isn't merely posturing. Many have heard how he once wrote God in as his coach on an official drug test form. When he was told by an official to list a real person, he responded with "He is a real person". Obviously Hall doesn't struggle with conviction.

The New York Times featured an in depth article detailing exactly how Hall manages to be a "legitimate" faith based runner. Apart from devotional acts that most would expect from a professing Christian (praying, reading scripture, etc), Hall even takes one day off from training to honor the Sabbath - itself a sin to many in the distance running world.

Hall doesn't get overly literal about this, however. Hall was quoted saying "The Bible is not going to tell you how to be a good runner, just like it's not going to tell you how to build a computer," It could be said that he relies on God more for inspiration than absolute direction. (Ex - Try to push yourself today vs Run 10x1000 at tempo). Not to say absolute direction from God can't or hasn't happened. That's a question for Hall to answer.

After his 2nd place finish at the US Olympic Trials, there was little doubt in the running world that Hall had a shot at bringing home some hardware from London. The final day of the Olympics arrived and everyone was ready to see him shine.

Then, it happened. Just 10 miles into the race, Ryan Hall dropped out of the marathon - a career first. I had never seen anything like it. Sitting on my couch in the early morning hours, I was simply shocked.

I went on Twitter later that day searching for people bashing Hall and his coach. What I found was much more uplifting.

"You continue to inspire me," with the hashtag #GodIsStillGood  - Ryan Hall to Meb Keflezighi, Hall's teammate who was the only American to finish the marathon.

While most would say Hall failed in London, I think he achieved something amazing.

Hall's motivation for switching to faith based training are well summed up in this quote:
“I was a runner who happened to be a Christian. I needed to become a Christian who happened to be a runner.” Simply - Ryan wanted to go from being a Christian runner, a type of runner, to a running Christian, a type of Christian.

If Ryan was a Christian runner when he toed the line in London, his goal would have been to win the race, and a DNF would have totally demoralized him. Since it's pretty obvious that, while he was no doubt shocked and upset, Hall found a silver lining in the outcome of the race and could put it in a bigger perspective, the label of Christian runner fails to define him.

So, Ryan, for what it's worth, it is this bloggers opinion that you should consider your task complete.
Ryan Hall, running Christian.

1st Corinthians 924Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Start Gun

Perhaps the most terrifying thing I've ever seen is a starting gun. Unlike its more lethal counterparts, the start gun releases the life in me, rather than stops it. Its blast hits my ears and I'm set free to cover the course before me as fast as I can.

If my last blogging adventure is any indication of the road ahead, this blog should be quite a journey.

I promise my readers only this: my honest thoughts and observations on all things I encounter having to do with endurance sports ( running, biking, swimming, triathlon, etc.) and faith. Although I am a runner at heart and a Christian by the grace of God, I hope the posts in this blog will be quite eclectic and enjoyable.

Thanks for reading.