I came very late in life to the value of running. First, it was a way to get out of the house and shift a bit of baby weight. Then, when I found that the spiritual and emotional benefits far outweighed any vanity goals, the practice of running became central to my overall wellbeing. These links between what we do with our bodies and how they affect our spiritual life are central to the idea to have a day conference exploring these issues, sharing stories and looking at the theory as well as the practice of faith, and having a body.
Here is blog post I wrote a few years ago when these ideas first started to surface:
No meals to cook. No washing up. No school run. Yes, this conference in Durham was to me a veritable spa break, for I am a mother to young children. And in the vast quantities of free time, or at least they seemed enormous, I spoilt myself with self indulgent activities such as sleeping.
I also did what just a year ago would have been an act of madness: I rose at 6am to go for a run. It was cold, and Durham is hilly. I got a bit lost, and a definitely ran around in circles. But watching the moon and stars above the cathedral rise up as I ascended towards the finish line it seemed that it was worth the effort. And more than this, I felt I was claiming something for myself. Not just time away from my gorgeous family whom I love. But I was claiming the streets of this new city for myself, and I felt powerful doing it, pleased with my overweight, post partum body.
I have found since starting running that the body confidence that it gives has led not into the shallow pleasure of loosing a few pounds but rather it has been a holistic experience of healing. For someone who has gone through a traumatic birth and other illness experiences, trusting my body is not always easy. But slowly, as I have built up the miles, completed the odd race and tentatively listed ‘running’ as hobby, I have begun to claim my body back and trust it once more.
And so I claimed those Durham streets for myself. As I ploughed around, plodding and cursing the hills, I also claimed my body and my right to be there. And I claimed those streets for all who are not where they want to be: for the over weight, the lonely, the depressed, the odd, the outsider, the desperate, the afraid, the lost, the shy. I claimed them for the ill and those who feel worthless. I claimed them for mothers who give their body for the creation of life itself. I claimed those streets and as I stood panting in the shadow of the cathedral, stuck erect over that city, I did so before the clergy came to pray and before the sun arose.
To attend Faith and Fitness, go to http://gohealth.org.uk/event/faith-and-fitness/