Running and Penance

Brother Jeff turned on a podcast while we were cooking supper together, and the speaker repeatedly said, “The Father says that prayers and penances offered in secret shall be rewarded.”

Welcome to article 27 of a weekly series on the formation journey of Br. Josh, MIC, a second-year seminarian at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio. It is the continuation of Br. Josh's previous column, "Novice Notes."

By Br. Josh, MIC

Eighteen miles is not easy to run.

On Friday, the day before the 18-mile run required by my training program, my legs seemed to engage in a debate with my brain. 

My legs were saying, “We’re ready to run now! We’re so full of energy! We can do it, we can do it, we’re ready!”

My brain replied to my legs, “Are you suuuuure? Because I’m mentally worn out and my mind is NOT ready for anything like that!”

The next day, when I did the run, I felt that I thrashed my legs more intensely than I ever had done before, enough to make them never get excited and eager again!

Last Marian runner
My two Marian running compatriots, Alex and Jacob, experienced pain and physical problems that prevented them being able to prudently persist in their training programs. So, I was the last Marian signed up for the marathon itself, though Alex and Jacob were still likely to come and run shorter distances. 

On Saturday, I did the run on the treadmill. I started by praying the Divine Office while running. It is a gift that I can hold the breviary, read and pray it while running, and that I can also study from my psychology textbook by inserting it between the grooves on the front of the treadmill so that it covers the screen. Then, I just slowly read the book, occasionally having to reread certain bits, while running. 

This Saturday, after praying the Divine Office, I read from my textbook for over an hour while running. I had a thermos and some cups of water lying on a bench nearby, along with bananas and electrolyte pills. 

I took some breaks during the run to eat a couple bananas, rehydrate and use the restroom. While I was actively running, I kept the treadmill set at a steady speed range of 6.0-6.3 mph. 

When I reached the end of my assigned psychology reading, I put the textbook aside and got out my Rosary. There was still time to pray three rosaries before the end of the run. 

The run got hard in the last six miles, especially the last three. However, I kept the treadmill’s speed up and kept going. Thinking about the remaining distance was never fun. 

I cheered to myself as I passed certain milestones, such as my previous top running distance of 16 miles. 

Joy and peace
At a certain point, I put my Rosary aside and just started pouring out affectionate, brief prayers of love, as inspired. I felt deep joy and peace.

As I started my last half mile, nausea got into my stomach. I thought to myself, “There’s just one half-mile left,” so I barreled through it without changing my speed or making any alterations to what I was doing.

I ran the last fifth of a mile as fast as I could, increasing the speed to 8.7 mph. 

Gasping, I finally hit the button that turned the machine off, and I got down, covered in sweat.

I walked stiffly outside in tiny steps, my poor leg muscles aching with soreness, and put my feet up against the wall while lying on my back to let the blood drain down to the rest of my body for 20 minutes. This was actually uncomfortable, the first time that this recuperation technique affected me in an unpleasant way. 

Sacrifices to God
One of my motives in running is to make sacrifices to God.

While on the treadmill, on this particular run, I had a little conversation with God. I complained to Him (respectfully) about certain serious penances and prayer campaigns I did in years past that appeared to bear no fruit for the people I was praying for. 

I told Him, “Praying and sacrificing so much without fruit is discouraging.”

But that very afternoon, Br. Jeff turned on a podcast while we were cooking supper together, and the speaker repeatedly said, “The Father says that prayers and penances offered in secret shall be rewarded.”

The timing of this message was not a coincidence. I heard the Lord speaking through this, and it gave me the encouragement that I needed. 

Next: "My First Marathon!"
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