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The pure joy of running

From the July 18, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


I’ve always loved the pure joy of running. And I discovered my freshman year, as a first-time cross-country runner, that this activity came naturally to me.

My parents often took me running around the foothills of Golden, Colorado, when I was younger. But when I got into high school, it seemed like many people worried about running injuries. Stress fractures, shin splints—you name it. As a Christian Scientist, I find that it’s a great comfort knowing the truth about my relationship with a caring and loving God. Running to me is a strong expression of spiritual qualities, especially freedom and joy. When I take this to heart, there is no room for common jogging theories and anxieties.

Last summer, I began training with my cross-country team for my second season. (The season officially started in August but the unofficial training began in early May.) But by early June I began to struggle with back trouble. There was pain when I was doing common activities such as bending over or jumping, not to mention running. As fear started to grip me harder, the pain only grew worse.

My parents were aware and wanted to make sure that I would get relief soon. Because of many healings my family had experienced during my growing-up years, I wanted to use Christian Science treatment to handle this problem. That meant that we would prayerfully reject the false, distorted picture of an “injured me,” and understand more about my pure, spiritual identity. We expected to see healing results.

I tried to remain calm and prayed on and off about it for several weeks, but good thoughts seemed to be blocked by scarier thoughts. What Science and Health calls “error,” or the lie that there’s a power bigger and more powerful than God, was trying to escalate my fear with lies like “This is a severe condition. What if it can’t be healed through prayer?” or “Maybe it will never disappear, and you won’t be able to run again.”

One night I glanced around my room and saw my tattered, well-used, little “Words Only” Christian Science Hymnal. I had gotten to know this book well since I’d used it to find supportive ideas to pray with during a very difficult math class the year before. So I immediately turned to my favorite: Hymn 160. The first verse reads:

It matters not what be thy lot,
So Love doth guide;
For storm or shine, pure peace
is thine,
Whate’er betide.
(Mary Baker Eddy)

I love this verse because it says that no matter what happens, whether you are in storm or shine, you can always feel pure peace because God, Love, is your guide. This, along with a thought from my mom that doing a good activity to express spiritual qualities can’t produce bad results, succeeded not only in calming me down for that moment, but in blocking all negative thoughts that came my way.

By the end of that week, the back trouble was gone. Actually, I’d completely forgotten about it! When bad thoughts and worries crept back into my thinking, I just laughed to myself and thought, “So silly!” They had no power to take my healing away.

This healing experience helped during another problem toward the end of my sophomore running season leading up to our school’s biggest cross-country event. I learned that having a peaceful frame of mind and a diligent attitude, in practice and prayer, is so important.
During this time, cold symptoms started to develop, which made it very hard for me to focus on running. Besides the challenge of these symptoms, I didn’t get to run much, since I play the drums and also had to practice and perform with the drumline for my school. (I play during the football game halftime shows, and also in other drumline events.) I wondered if only one cross-country practice that week would be sufficient to get me ready for the pre-regional meet on Saturday.

At the one practice, I only made it halfway through before sputtering and coughing. On our way back to the school, I couldn’t breathe very well and had to walk a good way back. This was discouraging because it seemed that I wouldn’t be able to run for the rest of the week. I became afraid I wouldn’t do well in the upcoming meet, and not be ready for the regional meet the next Friday. This felt like a low point.

When I got home, I tried to calm down and thought back to what my mom had told me during my back troubles—something like this: “You can’t be hindered when you’re doing a good, God-expressed activity.” I knew that drumline required creativity and joy, both of which are God-given qualities. And I realized that since God is omnipotent, there could be no shortage of joy for drumline and running. I started to look at running in a whole new way, as something that should be joyful, not worrisome or irritating. And it also became clear that while I’m expressing joy, God, it is impossible for me to feel hurt or sick.

On the night before the cross-country meet, I completed all of the drumline performances, and the next morning it was time to run. I went into the meet with a renewed feeling of anticipation and excitement, and thought how wonderful it was going to be to run with this new mind-set of jubilation, enjoyment, and delight.

I ran the whole meet with no negative thoughts and ended up coming in second for my team with a time that was only three seconds away from my personal best. The signs of a cold were completely gone and didn’t come back. Wow . . . Bliss! The remaining practices gave me opportunities to practice this new joyful approach before the next big meet.

At the regional meet that next Friday, I ran very well, beating my personal best by 16 seconds on a difficult course, and I enjoyed the run the whole time.

I am very grateful for these healings, and for a new way of thinking that not only improved my running, but my outlook on life and God.


Shane Witters Hicks will be a junior in high school in the fall.

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