Sheer Madness

I sat down quietly on my bed and prayed, “If you want, Beloved, I would run an ultramarathon for you.” Then, I forgot about my off-the-cuff prayer.

Welcome to article 11 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." Watch for a new column every Friday.

By Br. Josh, MIC 

I lay on my back on concrete, breathing heavily, holding Mortimer Adler’s Aristotle for Everybody above me. I was reading while recovering from my first long run since joining the Marians. It was an 8-mile run, so it was at the shortest end of the range of long runs I ran while living with my sister Sarah in Redding, northern California.

My feet were up against the wall so that the blood would run back down from my legs into the rest of my body.

Brother Michael walked by and said drily, in amusement, “I see you’re reading some philosophy with your feet on the wall.”

“Yep!” I exclaimed, grinning and offering no explanation.

He took a photo.

When I got up five minutes later, there was a large wet patch of sweat on the concrete where I had been lying. 

Love-hate relationship
About a week later, my sister Sarah had a dream. When she woke up, she wrote on my family’s “Massatt Messages” page:

“I dreamt that me, Mom, Dad, and Josh ran a 50 mile ultramarathon together and had loads of fun!”

Mom laughed and responded, “Dream on, Sarah!!!”

Sarah runs marathons. The rest of us do not. My parents are seniors and I … well, in a fit of madness, I started running. 

I actually partly hate running. I used to hate running passionately and unreservedly, but now I find myself in an unfortunate and bizarre love-hate relationship with it. Back when I hated running completely, my life was simple and comfortable. Because that period of my life ended, I have become decidedly less comfortable.

I do love the Virgin Mary, though. Therefore, after Sarah’s dream, I sat down quietly on my bed and prayed, “If you want, Beloved, I would run an ultramarathon for you.”

Then, I forgot about my off-the-cuff prayer.

However … Mary didn’t.

“I’m in”
The very next day, as I was walking down the cloister-area hallway, feeling peaceful and contented, minding my own business, I noticed one of the novices, Alex, and Br. Jacob standing in the hall in front of me. They were conferring with one another quietly and they looked up as I approached.

“Hey, Josh runs,” Br. Jacob noted, thoughtfully.

“We’re thinking about running a marathon,” Alex told me. “You want to join us?”

“Oooooh,” I said, stopping in front of them. 

There was a pause as they waited.

Thoughts of horrible suffering and misery blazed through my mind – with that inexplicable thrill of adventure.

“I’ll think about it,” I told them. “I’m interested. I’ll let you know …”

Not long after, I found Alex in his room, looking over the course. “I’m in,” I told him, firmly. 

The marathon takes place at Merri-Mac Park in London, Ohio, on April 20, 2024. It’s a flat course and the slowest speed at which we can finish the race on time is about 10 minutes and 20 seconds per mile. This race is mild as compared to other marathons. 

The three of us are only planning to finish the race before it closes; we aren’t trying to win. It will nonetheless require massive training, including long runs on weekends that reach up to 20 miles in length. 

“Our Lady is to blame!”
I wrote to Sarah:

“Hey Sarah, madness descends!!!!! Sheer madness, and Our Lady is to blame! I'm going to run a marathon this spring, with another seminarian and a novice. Can you send me the training plans?”

She soon responded: “Oh my gosh that’s soooo cool!!!! I have to run it with you! First out-of-state marathon and with a bunch of potential priests too, super duper!”

She provided a link to a running training webpage.

“Here are the training regimens I usually use for planning out mileage. Pick your favorite!”

So, my sister Sarah will be running with Br. Jacob, Alex and me. 

Father Thad is giving us permission to go for it. I am excited, and I feel determined not to let Mary down. It’s for her!

Next week: "Advent Begins."
Previous entry.


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