The Long Run

I am running in the Days of ‘47 marathon in Salt Lake City on Monday. I don’t point this out because I am desperate for people to come and cheer me on (which, on a side note, I am; please come!). Instead, I would like to talk about what the process of training has meant to me spiritually.


I am not, by nature, a very diligent person. I procrastinate. I avoid responsibility. I shun extra work. I have long recognized these as defects in my character. For that matter, I once believed that anyone who ran a marathon was an idiot with a death wish. More on that below.

I was inspired to train for a marathon by reading a book that made it look easy. I now refer to the book as “the lazy slacker’s guide to training for a marathon.” I think that it would sell an additional million copies if the author changed the name, but I haven’t contacted him about it.

Now, the book by itself did not provide sufficient inspiration. As noted, I am a very, very lazy man. As a result, I often wonder why I have never really done anything hard (answer: I don’t do hard things (please refer back to the lazy, lazy part)). Well, recognizing that laziness wasn’t really getting me somewhere and that it wouldn’t be too hard to train for the marathon, I decided to give it a go.

The final reason I wanted to train for the marathon was because I thought it would teach me something. Something about the value of hard work, delayed gratification, and challenging goals. People always talk about how you inevitably gain a greater sense of purpose and an appreciation for life by this process. Paul, for example, sometimes used running metaphors to make his points and I thought perhaps I might better understand the nature of our race if I participated in one. After all, I had to stop believing that only suicidal half-wits need apply. In any case, I also used to think that people who studied the ancient world and the scriptures for a living were near-sighted, potential fundie, self-righteous prigs (technically, that turned out to be true, at least as regards me).

The sad thing is that I really haven’t learned anything. I’ve lost some weight, but not very much and that has more to do with cutting back at meals than with training. I don’t feel a bit healthier, I don’t look a bit skinnier, and I have yet to notice that I have turned into a spiritual dynamo. I am just me. I used to think that the training had no effect whatsoever, until I realized that, while the first time I ran 10 miles I thought both legs were about to fall off, it really isn’t that big a deal for me anymore. 10 miles is a 2 hour run, not a risk to my safety, now.

So that’s it. I signed on to learn something about myself and learned that I can still be me, even after running several miles. Of course, maybe that was the point all along.

So, have you ever done something in order to gain spiritual insight, but found it didn’t help all that much? Maybe this is just a disease found among lazy romantics like myself.

ps. Often, in posts like this (ones about long distance running, that is), people talk about some good cause and how you ought to use their example to find a reason to donate to it. I’m not like that, really. I just want people in the Salt Lake area to come watch me run. However, if you are inspired to send 26.2 times whatever amount of cash to some charity or good cause, please let me know. I need more reasons to pat myself on the back, after all.


  1. Holy crap! Good luck. The Lords of Kobol will smile upon you. Report in post-race — and embarrassing photos, please.

  2. So, have you ever done something in order to gain spiritual insight, but found it didn’t help all that much?

    Yeah, I went on a mission. HA!

  3. Alas, anon, some things depend on the person and not the situation.

  4. Far be it from me to tell people what to do, but this wasn’t meant to invite general anti-church griping. Instead, I want to hear from people who hated going on Trek!

  5. My wife and I met on a pioneer trek at Martin’s cove. I didn’t hate it.

  6. HP/JDC, as a fellow lazy sack, for me, the transcendence is a function of the challenge. There is alot of stuff that was difficult for me (e.g., menial summer labor that inspired me to higher education) but the transcendant stuff is the challenging on a physical or mental level. I think the reasons for doing it were also important. I don’t think you can very well force transcendence on others.

  7. Well, JDC, I am really proud of you for sticking to it. If you don’t keel over sometime during that day, please feel free to come over and beat me at Settlers of Catan. (Everybody’s doing it.) =)

    I wish I could attend and throw water on you at various points.

    Incidentally, I didn’t feel anything different after ‘reading’ the Book of Mormon last year. I thought it would make a difference, but it turns out that >I

  8. … it turns out that I can’t use angle brackets for emphasis. =)

    Actual ending:

    that I have to make the change (insert Michael Jackson dance move)

  9. You might feel differently about “not having learned much” *after* the race..? Don’t be surprised if you do.

  10. “I don’t think you can very well force transcendence on others.”

    This is actually the point of the post (and the reason why I gripe about Trek). All sorts of people have told me that this is practically a life changing experience, but I have my doubts. You will all be dutifully informed, of course.

    you’re on!!!

    I certainly might feel differently afterwards. As part of the training, I have already run the distance, but it is different when you get a t-shirt. I can tell you that after the first time I ran 20 miles, I was tremendously thankful for a home to return to, a shower with hot water, and a family who were a little surprised that I actually did it. A few weeks later, I’m back to taking all of that for granted.

  11. God is telling me that I have to go do my training run for the day. I missed a week of runs (including one 7 and one 8 mile runs on two consecutive weekends — Mom took a bit longer to die than we thought she would), and I get to look forward to doing a 9 miler this Saturday. Yippee.

    I’ll be doing the Seattle Marathon in November, God willing and the river don’t rise. This is my second try at marathon training (last year I flamed out in September), and I’m hoping that I can make it through this time. Doing a life transition right now isn’t very convenient, but it’s the way things work.

    My story is similar to yours as regards the laziness, but I’ve felt the differences from the training quite a lot. I felt it yesterday when I ran for the first time in a week and did one of the better times I’ve done on the first almost mile I’ve run. I found that I don’t enjoy running all that much, but I enjoy having run. I also enjoy racing, and I’m looking forward to some 10k races in the next few months. It’s cool to have people hand you cups of water and clap at you and say “good job!” while you run.

    For me, I don’t care if I learn anything from the running itself — I hope that it helps me live long enough that I can learn something profound. I already have diabetes and high blood pressure, and heart disease and cancer run in the family — if I’m as lazy as I want to be, I don’t think I’ll make it to 70 (which gets closer every day).

    I’ve been thinking about training back up for the SLC Marathon in April next year (depending on how things go the next few months, of course). If you’re going to run that one, let me know and I’ll try to meet you if that doesn’t scare you. I’d like to try for St. George next year as well (if I can get through the lottery).

    For those interested in going from couch potatoes to marathons (full or half, running or walking) I’d suggest looking into the USA Fit program if there is one in your area. It’s a six month program that’s a lot cheaper than other programs and I’m not getting paid for this mention. It’s just there to help beginners get started, and existing runners to get better (make bad runners good, and good runners better?).

  12. Jothegrill says:

    What did my husband learn from running a marathon? He said, “I learned that it’s extremely painful.” Good luck with that.

  13. I ran St. George back in 03, but haven’t run one since. I’d love to do it (or any marathon) again, but haven’t gotten back into shape for it…

    As far as anon’s comment #2, and the negative reactions in comments #3 and 4, well, I can say that, while I look back at the mission relatively positively, other parts were not spiritual at all. For J. Stapley to blame anon’s reaction to the mission on anon him/herself is ridiculous. And for J. Daniel Crawford to imply that any negative comment about a mission is akin to ‘general anti-Church griping’ is just as ridiculous. Like I said, my mission experiences were positive and negative, but I know many good-hearted people who went and served (and stayed active after their missions) who did not respond well to the mission experience due to their naturally introverted nature. Also, my own brother, because of his introverted nature, decided not to serve, even though he stays active in the church. In sum, mission does not equal church AND neither mission nor church equal gospel of Jesus Christ.

  14. APJ, if anon would have written a comment like yours, I would not have written the comment that I did. Sure someone can have a less than positive experience in the Church and not have it be their fault. But to anonymously mock (Ha!) the missionary experiance isn’t respectful…and I actually believe my response.

    So, to respond to the substance of your comment, I am a classic introvert, so I get that angle. I had a good experience in my mission, though. There were those that did not. What was the difference? While there are many exceptions, I see two general liklihoods: 1) the person isn’t willing to find the positive or 2) the service is a result of some sort of compulsion (societal, familial, etc.). For the latter, I don’t believe being compelled to do anything in the Church is prudent. It makes me think of Moroni’s council about giving good gifts even though you don’t want to.

  15. J. Stapley, fair enough…I just happened to read ‘anon”s ‘HA’ as more of a way to lessen what could be perceived as a negative tone.

    But you could be right; if the ‘HA’ was meant as a disrespectful mocking, you’re right…it’s too hard to read tone into blog comments, eh? Anyways, I agree with you generally, I believe; there is good and bad on the mission. To emphasize the bad reveals a character flaw, as does over-emphasizing the good, perhaps.

  16. J. Daniel,

    If you are running the marathon in order to “find yourself” spiritually, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed. You are going to go through the workout thinking, “where’s the nirvana?”

    Spiritual moments don’t happen because we think we need them but they happen because God thinks we need them.

    I wish you luck with the marathon (I’ve been dreaming of running one at some point). Stay hydrated. Perhaps, when it is all through, you might find you did learn something; just not what you were planning to learn.

  17. Blain,
    I was considering running in the SLC marathon next year (its in June, now). Let me get through this one first and if I still like, I’ll let you know.

    I, like J, understood anon’s tone as simply mocking. I appreciate your point though and, perhaps, I should have let anon off the hook.

    That said, griping about my griping is BANNED!! You (sir/madam) are hereby uninvited to my pre-race spaghetti feast!!!!

    You have inspired me. “Where’s my frickin’ nirvana?” is now going to be my new mantra.

  18. I’ll be cheering you on in spirit. I have nothing but admiration for anybody who exercises in any way.

    Every day I walk out to the mailbox, about 30 feet. Good exercise.

  19. 17 — I made my run (up to my normal Monday distance) yesterday and it was okay (a little sore, but you know how that goes). The first mile remains the hardest — I felt up to another mile when I was done, but decided to quit anyhow.

    June? Weird. SLC isn’t high on my list of places I want to run 26.2 the first week of June. But I don’t know that I’ve been in the valley then. What are temps like then?

    But I hear you about not committing until you finish this one. I’m really concerned about getting back on track this next couple of weeks. Until I finish one, I’m hesitant to commit to another.

  20. Yeah, I thought April was preferable, too. It’s not too bad in early June and they run it in the morning, which is nice. Maybe we’ll meet up.

  21. HP/JDC: Fine, it’s your blog post, so i will no longer gripe about you griping about general anti-church griping…btw, good luck with the race! I liked this post, and agree with the gist of it.

  22. tesseract says:

    I’m training for the St George marathon, it’ll be my first. I have already learned a lot by training. I have learned that I can be very dedicated once I commit to something. The long runs have taught me that I am a lot stronger than I think I am. Running also gives me a lot of alone time to reflect on things, clear my head, de-stress me, and the endorphins aren’t bad either. I’m up to 15 miles on my long runs, but I still am nervous about doing a whole marathon. I still think people who run marathons are crazy – I guess I have just realized that I fall under that category.

  23. I think we can all agree that anyone who can run 26.2 miles is pretty strong and dedicated. I have run two marathons, and didn’t really feel the emotional and spiritual gain until after they were over. I did feel strong–stronger than I ever thought I could be.
    My husband told me a few days ago that my first marathon was one of his most memorable memories. It is quite an accomplishment, and I wish you luck. It is a badge of pride you’ll be able to wear forever.
    My advice–take it easy and enjoy the fans. Most of those cheering you on are amazed that you can even run 2 miles never mind 26.2.
    Let us know how you feel after Monday. Good luck!

  24. I did it today. I did it in 6 hours 2 minutes. I’ll give a fuller report tomorrow.

  25. HP/JDC my old china,
    Well done! I didn’t see the “John the Runner” in Baltimore, so I’m amazed really. Amazed!!

  26. 24 — Good job! I’m still on goal. I made my 9 mile big run on Saturday, which included the longest stretch of running without walking or resting that I’ve ever done in my life (which rather kicked my butt and took several miles to recover from). If you want something a little less rigorous, the Phedippidations Global Half Marathon is scheduled for October. I’m planning on running it (as part of our big weekend run of 20 miles).

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