A Joyful Perspective

I was not sure what to expect when I first picked up Ryan Hall’s Running With Joy, his daily journal as he trained for the Boston Marathon.  I originally purchased the book because I like to run, and I knew who he was, and thought I could at least gain some insight into what makes him an elite runner; this was not because of some strange belief that he held the “secret” to my becoming an elite runner, it was a way to understand him better.

And when I opened it the first time, I saw a training journal, complete with workout details.  It was not exactly what I was hoping for, or so I thought.  Something told me to open it up again, and I am glad I did.

Running With Joy is a wonderful account of Hall’s training for the Boston Marathon.  More than provide running tips, it offers his unique perspective on being an elite runner.  I was taken aback by his honesty and his self-critiques.

What struck me most about his book/journal was his unhidden love for Jesus, and how he understands that he has a platform to spread Christianity, while understanding that our culture is not always accepting of “over the top” love for Jesus.

I gained a whole new respect for Ryan Hall while reading his book.  Here is an elite runner, the American half-marathon record holder (59:43), and 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials champion offering a candid account of the ups and downs, both physically and emotionally, of training for a marathon.  I have a better understanding of how to approach my own running; things like not getting to proud of myself after a great run and not getting too down on myself after a bad run.  Or understanding that sometimes a good run is one where I feel  the worst, and vice versa.

Throughout the book, Hall quotes Bible passages that he was thinking of during a run, and I made sure to write them down.  Three that really stuck with me were Isaiah 40:31 ( but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint), Jeremiah 17:7 (But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him), and Proverbs 16:3 (Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans).  To me, those passages from the Bible are amazing.  They are not amazing because God has a special place for runners, but because I believe that they teach us that when we are truly ready to begin to realize God’s plan for us, we have to let go; we cannot and should not stop our journey when things get tough or we are tired.  I think that Hall sums up that feeling when he writes, “but when things aren’t really clicking and we still get everything out of our body that we can muster, our character shows.”[pg. 87]

I am happy beyond words that I took the time to read this book.  Whether or not you are a runner or not, an elite or a “weekend warrior,” there are lessons to be learned.  Probably one of my favorite parts about the book is that he finally begins to realize that life is not all about winning.  In fact, he came in 4th in the Boston Marathon this training journal writes about, and he could not have been happier.  He had the right perspective; he found joy in his running, and stayed true to that, win or lose (although running a 2:06 or so marathon hardly qualifies as “losing,” no matter that place you actually finish).

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