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The Spirituality of Running

Turn your runner's high into inner peace!

If you've ever run a long distance you've probably experienced runner's high. If not, it's something like this: your surroundings fade away and you're overcome by a sense of calm. You don't notice time's passage as you're lost in thought - completely in the moment and experiencing a serene sort of joy.

"It's hard to describe," Steve Steinberg 53, told the Eagle Tribune, whose recent article was what clued us into the course.

"It's inspiring. It's uplifting. It can be spiritual and it can just be a place where you find new ideas. ... It's a kind of an inner glow."

"You could use the term 'zoning out,'" Bill Clarke, another runner said.

Merrimack College professor Warren Kay, described his moments of runner's high as profoundly spiritual. "When you reach a certain place, it feels like you can just go on forever," Kay said. "I'm before God."

A religion professor at the North Andover Catholic college and a lifelong runner, Kay decided to discuss the topic in the open. This semester he began teaching what he called "The Spirituality of Running" a class that examines such traditional religious acts as prayer, sacrament and pilgrimage and draws parallels to running.

There's one catch: every student needs to be able to run at least 4 miles a day.

"(Running) is not a break from reality but an escape to reality," Kay said. "This is what the course is about."

One of the students Jim Nuget told the paper that he began to love running as a result of the class - which was saying something considering he'd hated it all through high school (and up until this semester)! "Reading assignments and class discussions got him thinking about how running has a lot in common with, for example, a traditional religious pilgrimage. It involves movement, Kay said, as well as simplicity of dress, a sense of fellowship with people around you and a temporary release from the social ties of life, work and school," according to the Eagle Tribune.

Kay added that running can be a way to experience a tangible, outward physical sign of inward grace and sacred reality.

"Once you just get in the middle of the run, everything around you is just there and almost part of you," Nugent said. "You don't realize how far you've run."
Talk about living in the moment - and being on top of your game! Exercise is part of any health regimen - physical or mental. After all, there is no disputing a mind/body connection.


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