“I run because I can. When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they would give to have this simple gift that I take for granted and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me.”
My relationship with running has had its ups and downs – the same can be said for my relationship with God.
“Keep running the race that is set before you with endurance.”
– Hebrews 12:1
I have always loved running, it was the first form of voluntary exercise that I did and although most of my peers hated it, I really enjoyed it. While they avoided the long distance items in the athletics season, I willingly signed up for those items first. It seemed to clear my mind and gave me sense of pride in sports – it was MY thing. I began to take it more seriously when I started high school and was actually quite good at it – that’s when it happened.
One day, during an athletics practice, I felt these sharp stabbing pains in my feet. When I took my trainers off, I was shocked to see that the insides of my feet had swollen up and were throbbing. The coach told me to get it checked out and I went to a doctor who booked me off all running sports for months. I was devastated. The rest of my high school career was spent going from physiotherapist to biokinetisist to orthopedic specialist. The only solution was to do an operation on my feet. I was way too scared to do the operation and accepted the fact that I would probably never run again.
I have always loved God, I don’t remember a time in my life when I did not feel connected to Him. I don’t believe I have ever doubted in His existence, but I had been very guilty of not talking to Him when I was busy or only if I needed something. There had been times when I was frustrated because I knew I was drifting away from Him and where I felt no motivation to seek Him. He was not my steering wheel, but rather my spare.
When I left for China in the beginning of this year, I felt very indifferent towards my faith – it was always there, but in the back of my mind. I wondered if being in China was going to impact my beliefs in an enormous way. Would I drift away from God? Would I learn more about other beliefs? I felt very uncertain about what was going to happen to me spiritually.
It turned out that China would have a huge impact on my religion; just not in the way I thought it would. China is an atheist country and the majority of its population is non-religious (I have to this day never met a Chinese person who identifies as religious). This was vastly different from what I was used to. I grew up in places where everyone was a Christian and went to church on Sundays. I often like to put myself in others’ shoes, so when I was surrounded by non-religious people, I naturally tried to see the world from their perspective. I imagined living my life with no God, no religion and no church: within seconds, my stomach dropped, my heart beated faster, I felt an enormous sense of dread and fear. I immediately thought to myself, “What’s the point in living then?” In that moment I realised how important my relationship with God was and felt an instant connection with Him. I needed Him to live, because I didn’t want to live without Him.
I started reading Christian blogs and reading the Psalms. I began talking to God; I don’t mean praying, I had a constant inner dialogue with Him and I still do. I talk to Him in the same way I talk to my friends. I never felt like I was on my own in China, because I had a friend by my side all the time. But then something remarkable happened – my own little miracle.
This is where running comes in. I had tried to run several times in the past few years and would only last five minutes before my feet started throbbing. I had just given up on it, but one night about two months ago I felt an overwhelming urge to go running the next morning – I had never felt this kind of desperation and need to do something. I wasn’t sure if God was trying to tell me to go running, but I prayed long and hard about it and got up early the next morning to run. I walked to a trail next to the coast of Shenzhen and started to run… I ran for an hour straight. I kept my inner dialogue going and thanked God so much while running next to the coast and watching the sun rise. I felt like the happiest person in the world. I have continued to do this almost every day since then. I would wake up early, run while the sun rised and pray – it was my favourite part of my day.
I have never felt so strong and confident in my religion as the way I currently feel. Running is my miracle from God and I always remember that. It brings me closer to Him and its our special time together. I have definitely learnt that with God all things are possible!