“…Remember that I’m running for an audience of one.” – Alicia Shay, American 10,000m runner
Sometime in the 9th Century B.C, a young man was crowned king over a small nation in the Middle East. After acquiring a city (Jerusalem) as his capital, he decided to bring the national and spiritual emblem of his people into his city to mark to commemorate his reign as king. And thus history shows that on that day, a king called David (Daud) stripped himself of his robe and crown, and danced before his subjects as he celebrated. Later, his wife would tell him he had humiliated himself in front of an unworthy audience. The king replied: I will humiliate myself even more. Because I know who I dance for.
I was challenged by someone recently: I was asked why do I run? Well, training’s fun, I want to clock better times, the company that training brings is cool, the “scenery”, a sense of self-worth, to keep fit, for peace, to de-stress. These are good answers. But they aren’t good enough reasons. To answer a question like this, I had to dig deep.
– Because I’m no sportsman. Neither am I an athlete. For my entire secondary school life, I shelved library books every recess and every day for 2 hours after school. The only exercise I got was as a goalkeeper during PE. I threw up my lunch when I first ran a cross-country race at McRitchie. I dislike running around the track (give me road, grass or sand anytime, anyday). So when I got injured last year, I thought quitting would be a very good idea.
But I draw strength from my quiet Sunday runs after church around Hougang and Punggol. When I hit my wall or pain threshold, as I have many times during injury and during training, I remind myself that running is beyond the physical. I remember all the people who went the distance because they were filled with spirit: Australian Aborigines walking thousands of kilometres during their Dreamtime, the Tarahumara People running in the desert (learnt in Sociology class), the Prophet Elijah outrunning the king’s chariot to Jezreel –
I like to think that running – like the King called David in the anecdote above – is a personal performance, humiliating (because of failure) yet spirit-filled (beyond just a physical act). It’s what keeps me going. It’s what makes it more than putting 1 foot before the other.
It’s not about competing or training. It’s not the thrill of winning. Or breaking records. It’s not even about redemption. It’s about putting to use what God has given me. And so I run – because maybe, just maybe as I run, someone won’t say I’m humiliating myself. But instead, that someone will say: I’m seeing something spiritual in you.