by Melody Copenny
My best running happens early in the morning when my mind is fresh and my body is rested. But one late afternoon run I started at 3 pm, with eight long interval miles ahead of me. Training for my second half marathon in less than a year pushed me, while also giving me a new and growing confidence in the strength of my body and my mind.
My last two miles that Sunday were the hardest. My feet were sore, my legs tired. I made a new personal record for my 10K running time and even got some nice sprinting times in. Exhaling a long breath of joy as I saw my Garmin watch hit the 8.00-mile marker, I slowed my run to a stop and took note of my stats. I felt better than good, despite being sweaty and having legs that felt like jelly.
I was so focused on reading my finishing time and pace and run splits that I didn’t even see the very attractive thirty-something Black man in front of me. Until he spoke.
Him: “Hey...I saw you getting it in for a while here, you've been putting in work.”
Me: “Thank you. Yes, just finished eight miles.”
Him: “Wow!!! You really have been putting in work.”
Me, smiling with pride: “I'm training for a half marathon.”
Him: “Well keep it up.” He then smiled and kept looking my way as he walked past. Then he stopped and turned back towards me. “Hey, my name is Marcus. What's your name?”
Me: “My name is Melody.”
After our brief introductions, we headed in our different directions, but I could tell he wanted to say more. He left me to my cool down walk and continued on his way. Our short conversation encouraged me as a single woman who has been praying about dating opportunities. It also reminded me of the peace and joy I experience when I have focused time on the pavement, whether training for half marathons or simply walking with intention as I pray and process my life with the Lord.
Making space for these times provides regular rhythms to be present with myself and invite God into the nuances of my life. He’s already there, but taking the time to actually talk with Him about my dreams, my needs, and what’s making me smile lately helps me build intimacy into our relationship. Moving my body through walking and running helps me move my words and thoughts out of my head and into my heart and mouth. My voice finds cadence for my feelings and longings with the rhythm of my feet hitting the asphalt under me, one step at a time. There’s a rootedness I feel, something Colossians 2:6-7 describes so well:
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” (ESV)
Life with Christ isn’t designed to be lived standing on sidewalks or sitting down on benches casually watching others take a lap around the park.
Life with Christ compels me to move towards Him, in whatever method of movement I can, and live in Him, receiving the supernatural anchoring and spiritual moxie that faith in Him produces in a willing heart like mine.
I find in my journey, Christ beckons me into life with Him, and that life necessitates movement with Him daily – whether that’s walking with Him, sometimes running, maybe a light jog, and in some moments of unimaginable loss and grief, the surrender to let Him carry me in His arms when my knees buckle and I can go no further in my own volition.
Each time I head outside my home for another walk or run, not only am I choosing to exercise my physical self, I’m giving life to my spiritual self too. Being aware of my whole self is very important to me. And with each mile laid down during my pavement times, I find that more of me gets rooted deeper into the story God is writing for my life. I join Him in the journey of my runs that keep me moving and the walks that give me the introspection my soul needs. He is Emmanuel – God with us, the God who walks alongside us, and the God who roots us deeply to Himself.
Melody Copenny is an editor, journalist, and content strategist who covers national and international stories with themes of hope and eternity in mind for a global non-profit. She enjoys exploring the intersection of creativity, theology, and popular culture in her writing projects. You can connect with her on her website at http://findingmelodie.com/.