Sunday, August 4, 2013

#472: Running with a Friend

There is a sacred fellowship, a holy communion that passes between friends who run together. 

On the road, with people I love, we share stories of promises broken and kept. Relationships in trouble. Battles with depression and financial hardship and the pain of being alone and the joy of being married. As the miles roll by, hearts are bound together in the hushed music of footfall and breath. Sometimes one leads, then the other. Sometimes side by side.

There is fun and celebration in running with a group or in a race. Glorious solitude awaits the lone runner on the early morning streets of the neighborhood, but to run with a friend, wordlessly drinking in the world together... this is holy.

A winter morning, the Bluegrass hills looking like a snow globe as the two of you come to the crest of a hill, only to see half a dozen deer glide weightlessly over the barbed wire fence, across the road, and disappear into the whitening trees.

A frigid day, racing the rain, spent coming to know an old internet acquaintance who you've never met in real life, and crossing the finish line hand in hand, knowing that a faceless cyber connection has been forged into a life-long friendship.

Struggling through the afternoon heat with a pal who won't let you get a word in edgewise because the past few days have been so overwhelming and sometimes you just need someone to hear what you have to say.

Running hard, side by side in the morning mist, then stopping dead in your tracks together, overcome by the unspeakable beauty of a cool stream and a clear waterfall and an ancient mill. No language is necessary; you breath the clean, moist air. No one else will ever share this moment with you, and you both know it. This is sacred.

One of my favorite prayers in the Episcopal liturgy is part of the Eucharist: 

Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal. 

That's why I say running together is communion. On the road, in the hills, on the streets and trails if find peace and consolation, redemption even. But there is so much more there. Every run makes us stronger, teaches us confidence and humility, and if we are very lucky, it binds us together as friends in ways that nothing else I know about can do. This is fellowship. This is communion.

I ran with my friend this morning, on a course where in a few weeks, we will both be racing in a half-marathon. He is younger, stronger, and faster than me, (though not as good looking.) We will not see much of one another once that race has started, but because of the time we shared this morning, and on so many other mornings together, I will have him right by my side. When my breath feels labored, I will hear his stories. When my legs are heavy, I will see his infuriatingly steady pace just ahead of me, drawing me along like a locomotive pulling freight. Once you run with a friend, you never really run alone again. 


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