A little background. I’m a runner. I started running back in June of 2009, and have only stopped occasionally for sickness or injury (got the flu once, probably H1N1, and Achilles tendinitis). Since that time I’ve logged 723 miles in 193 runs, and just recently surpassed 100,000 calories burned. Last year I ran the Utah Valley Half Marathon in 2:06, and am planning on the Shamrock Half Marathon next month, and hopefully the Utah Valley Marathon in June.
I love running. There is something about it that helps me connect with myself at a deep level. Some of my most spiritual impressions have come to me on runs, and I have felt most alive. Our fellow blogger, Geoff, over at Millennial Star has expressed the same feeling. I noted on his blog post:
I’ve had moments on my runs when I have felt the Spirit strongly. It caught me off guard, but I think I understand. Running helps me be a better person, more healthy, less stressed, more focused, invigorates my mind, and I think the Spirit is telling me that I’m doing good, to keep at it, and it will benefit me.
One of my great-great cousins is also well known in the Church for his running – Creed Haymond. His story has been told in General Conference and in the Ensign, always in conjunction with the Word of Wisdom. The Statistical Report of 1982 noted his passing. Perhaps there is something about running that helps me feel more connected with my heritage.
As I read this story in Runner’s World today about army wives and widows using running to cope with the stress, pain, and loss of their husbands, it touched me. It started with Lisa Hallett, whose husband, Capt. John Hallett, was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009. With a newborn baby, and two other toddlers at home, Lisa found peace in running.
Before his death, Lisa found running was a time to dream about his coming back, but afterwards, they’ve become “a spiritual escape.” Lisa explains, “There’s a lot of conversations with God, there’s a lot of sorting.” Since the death, she’s helped put together a running group of other military wives who’ve also lost their husbands, called “Run to Remember,” who’ve run two marathons together and are planning another this June.
The last part of the article I particularly took note:
On a recent damp and cool Pacific Northwest Saturday morning, 20 women gathered to start their weekly run. The ritual is steeped in tradition, like most things in the Army. At 10 a.m., the women formed a circle. Lewis glanced at Hallett before saying, “I’ll read the names.” She started down the list of men who died in combat or, in one case, committed suicide since August 2009.
“Sgt. Troy Tom, Spc. Jonathan Yanney, Capt. John Hallett,” Lewis says. At her husband’s name, Hallett fixed her gaze hard into empty space. She was focusing on thoughts of John, the same thing she thinks about when she runs, she says.
It took Lewis another full minute to finish the list of 41 names. Then after short prayer, the women ran off.
The first time I encountered a prayer circle was when I went to the temple for the first time. But we are not alone in employing this form of worship, of bonding, of prayer, of reflection, of remembrance, and the power of focused meditation and group thought. The members of Run to Remember gather together on the weekends, form a circle, read a list of names of fallen soldiers, fallen husbands, to remember and honor them, and say a prayer.
Then they run.