My running and spiritual journeys have been one in the same

My running and spiritual journeys have been one in the same

5 mins

When I was 17, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and struggled for a long time with God because I couldn’t understand why I was handed a condition typically reserved for those 50+ years old.

Eventually, I was living in Chicago, newly married and having our first child. I finally started to grasp that reality and knew it was time to get serious, so I decided to try a marathon before turning 30. Running enabled a mindset of being more disciplined, managing my disease, and becoming a father. I successfully completed the Chicago Marathon. The recovery was awful. I could barely walk for a week and decided running wasn’t for me.

As time went by, I fell back into unhealthy habits and gained more weight than I had lost during training. Now with a second child on the way, I was back to the proverbial starting line. Even though I knew it was tough, running helped me get healthy the first time, so I laced up the shoes again. I was randomly selected a second time for the Chicago Marathon, and with a commitment to training and nutrition, I completed it faster with a manageable recovery. I was hooked! With a newfound sense of personal competition, running became a way for me to test my limits and manage stress. After three years of successes and failures on pavement, I located a passion for ultra-trail running (distances further than 26.2 miles – typically in nature).

My wife and I started attending Crossroads Mason. My spiritual journey paralleled my running journey, and I began searching for ways to leverage them together. Many of my supporters are within our church community and I am very thankful for them being in our lives. I started incorporating gratitude into my runs by adding a “Thank You” to my 15 minute physical check ins. Frequently during these times, I get goosebumps on the back of my neck that I interpret as “All is well, I’m with you.”

To close out 2019, I was facing my first injury that made running distance difficult. While there were some hard, pity party days, I felt that I was largely comforted that I would get through it stronger. Hindsight showed me that God placed the right people in my life at the right time to make my body physically ready and my mind strong enough to finish the Chattanooga 50 miler. After that, I turned my attention to the 2020 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.

Enter COVID-19. I wasn’t upset – it was the right call to postpone the Pig. I felt a sense of calm because God had blessed me and my family during this time – we have job security, our health, and there were no orders made against going out on a run during quarantine. I also had a back-up plan.

I learned about a movement called #everysinglestreet created by ultrarunner Rickey Gates, who ran every street in San Francisco. I put my own spin on it and created #runbeckettridge. The route ended up being close to 80 miles. My wife and I thought this idea could do some good in the community. After learning more about Reach Out Lakota, a local food pantry, I contacted the CEO about a partnership. That organization, too, was affected by a local run cancellation. It was a perfect fit, and ROL was an awesome partner in promoting this run as a fundraiser.

I ran 75 miles within Beckett Ridge. Friends and family came out to support me from beginning to end. My wife and kids were vital that day by meeting me at various points throughout the route for encouragement and to provide needed hydration and food to refuel. In just under 16 hours, I was done!

Most awesome, we raised $7,501 for Reach Out Lakota – well above our original goal. Through proper nutrition and recovery techniques, I felt “normal” in two days and was running again in a week. It is a testament that when you commit to something, anything is possible, because after my first marathon, I never would have dreamed of running six more plus a 50k, a 50 miler, and this 75 miler. And He isn’t done with me yet!

Hebrews 12:11 has it right, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I’ve had overwhelming comfort knowing God will take care of us no matter what and we can manage hardships. Now, what may be hardest is convincing my bride of a 100 miler, but as my biggest cheerleader, I think Christine is along for the ride! -Andrew S.

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