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Jogging Spirituality

Covenant Uphelp Pasko Tomic

Pasko Tomic

Jim Schroeder - published on 04/24/14

I had kept the covenant. As always, He had kept his.

I stepped outside.  It was a perfectly, chilly morning.  The previous evening, we had attended the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral, where all the ceremonial oils of the Catholic Church were consecrated for the coming year.  Easter was almost upon us.

As my first few steps turned into a jog, much was on my mind.  My attempt at a hundred mile run was a week and a half away.  My thoughts instantly sprang to the previous October, when I set out on the first of these Wednesday ten mile runs.  The half marathon had just passed, and I was in a period of discernment.  For the first time in my athletic life, I had professed that if this race was going to happen, I would leave it entirely up to God.  At any point, if mandated by injury or family situations or another reason, I had vowed that I would be willing to bow out—I would appreciate what I was given, but I would know that it was time to take a different course.

So each Wednesday that I stepped out onto that empty road, I wasn’t sure if I was coming back.  And just two weeks into this particular run, I had felt my calf painfully give a mile from my work after protecting a previous foot injury.  I contemplated walking, but something said to run at any pace that would get me there.  So I did.  By the next Wednesday, I was back, and so grateful to be so.

Then the winter came, the harshest we had experienced in decades.  Temperatures repeatedly plummeted into the single digits.  Ice and snow came, only to refreeze and not leave.  Many Wednesday mornings started with a simple thought:  “I really don’t have to do this.”  But deep down, as long as God kept his promise, I knew I had to keep mine.  And so the dark, cold, unforgiving winter became a breeding ground for my soul.  I went on until the temperatures started to break, and spring finally found its way.  I learned how to run to my Lord in all that the world could bring.

This morning, over six months and 27 straight midweek morning runs later, I knew it would be one of celebration and one of thanks.  Less than a quarter of a mile from home, I suddenly heard a commotion.  A deer scrambled across the road in front of me.  Always my companions on my long weekend runs, they had reminded me of a divine presence when no one else was around.  I made my way down the hill across Pigeon Creek, a main tributary of the mighty Ohio River, onto the levee and to the Greenway trail for the next two miles.  The full moon hung brightly in the western sky.  And in the distance, I could see them.  For five months, I had run this trail in the dark, early morning hours and had never seen anyone else.  Except for them.  As I passed by the older man and his three legged dog for the last time, I stopped briefly and said hello, and then asked what had happened to his trinitarian friend.  Apparently the leg had been lost in an accident, and then he had adopted him.  An act of love, for sure; with that, I was on my way.

I headed downtown towards that mighty river.  The wind freshened in my face, providing just enough resistance to remind me of all the times that it had aided my course.  As I hopped onto the riverfront walkway, the swollen body of water eased by.  The full moon dropped in the sky, and I turned east toward the blazing sun.  A new day, a new chapter had begun.  I kept thinking about all the previous times I had found this particular path, wondering if I would come back.  I wondered if I was the same man that had started this the past October.  I wondered what God had in store.  

As I pulled away from the river, and gazed down its timeless course for the last time, I found myself in many different places.  In a moment, I was in the delivery room in December, when Louis Francis, our sixth child, was born.  I was on the icy streets in early January.  The wind was battering me in late March.  In moments, time was eternal, and I, in each of these moments, found myself in many places, in many times that had come to be.  The person I was before, the person I would become, was the person that I was now, if even for these moments.  And although as always, I desired for the run to be done, my presence in His presence, left me with no other option but to savor the moment upon.

Bayard Park passed by and as I crossed Highway 41, I continued to touch the signs and rails and benches along the way.  I guess I wanted to feel the sights I had seen as I let them go for some time.   I approached the last two miles.  I felt a slight twinge in my calf.  I smiled.  I had a come a long way enough to know that I would be fine, but the memory of that very early run resurfaced.  As I turned left back towards St. Mary’s, and last few hundred yards came into view, I closed my eyes in prayerful motion, and briefly pushed my fear away, only to redo it again and again.  

I reached the end as my thanks flooded into the street.  I pointed skyward and walked towards my familiar stretching tree.  The Holy Rosary bells tolled seven times in the background as so often before.  I had kept the Sabbath.  I had kept the covenant.  As always, He had kept his.  I knew that darkness would once again settle in during the following week, but for now peace reigned.  I walked up the stairs and reached into my pocket for my keys.  I smiled again.  For on every run, I had put a dollar with my keys so that when work ended, I would have money to catch the bus home. In my mind, though, there had always been a secondary reason for keeping this money in tow.  I figured that if my run went awry, I could at least struggle to a bus stop and arrive at work in this manner.  But on this morning, unlike all the rest, I had forgotten the bill.  And I heard a voice say, “You never needed it in the first place because I had been with you all along the way.”

Jim Schroederis a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana.

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