Running Inspiration in the Bible
Updated: Apr 28
Come What May: I Want to Run - 2 Samuel 18:35
A 2014 telephone and online survey to gauge Bible trends in the United States shows that 88% of American households own a Bible and have an average 4.7 Bibles in their homes. We have 10 Bibles in our home. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed read the Bible once or more a week. Me too. Another poll shows that while Americans claim they love the Bible, they don’t read it much. Another survey indicates that 20% of American adults claim to have read the bible from cover to cover. I have yet to read the Bible cover to cover. I turn to the Bible to find answers to life’s trials and tribulations, to find comfort, to pray, and to get closer to God. I also find running inspiration in the Bible. Scripture passages related to running provide great encouragement and hope.
I am not aware of any survey that asks runners of any distance if they read the Bible for comfort, to get closer to God, or for running encouragement and guidance. I have, however, come across print and online running books and magazines that are referred to as “running bibles.” Some running training guides and manuals are referred by authors, publishers, and reviewers as “the bible of ultrarunning,” “the bible of running,” and “the bible of training.” These handbooks, manuals, and guides inspire their readers.
They help runners develop, improve, and discover their best. They change and transform the runner’s life. There is an ultrarunning website that refers to its online race information packet for its ultra event — course information, race rules, regulations, etc. — as the Race Bible. There are also training books with a focus on scripture, God, and faith to prepare runners for their first running event, to lose weight, to improve their running skills, to cope with life’s adversities, and to go the extra mile.
Running Inspiration in the Bible
The common expression ‘Go the extra mile,’ and one heard among runners, comes from Matthew 5:41 - ‘and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.’ There are other scripture passages in the Bible related to the theme of running. Just as runners find inspiration in various “running bible” books and guides, runners can also find inspiration in the Bible. A form of transportation in Hebrew daily life, running was commonplace in the Old Testament. Running inspiration is also found in the New Testament, which contains the Gospels, the letters of Paul, and much more.
In the Bible, run/running is a metaphor that teaches about strength, discipline, endurance, suffering, patience, faith, encouragement, and hope. These themes are also found in the language and the experiences of runners from sprinters, to marathoners and ultra endurance runners. The following are some of the scripture passages the Bible offers runners to cope with the physical and mental challenges of running a sprint, a marathon, an ultra and anything in between. These passages can propel runners to keep the faith and to cross the finish line.
Pain, Suffering, Endurance, and Discipline
The pain that you feel can’t compare to the joy that’s coming (Romans 8:18).
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
But we also boast in our suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5: 4 - 5).
Run with endurance the race that God has put before you (Hebrews 12:1).
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields fruit to those who have been trained (Hebrews 12:11).
Strength, Patience, and Faith
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:3).
The end of something is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride (Ecclesiastes 7: 8).
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar like wings on eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
2011 Beast of Burden 100 Mile Finish
These scripture passages are a source of strength and encouragement during grueling ultras, especially when my body slowly shuts down and my feet run out of gas. During my walking breaks, I meditate on Isaiah 40:31. When I’m in pain, I mediate on Romans 8:18.
I begin every race with Hebrews 12:1. When diminished cognitive ability sets in and I can’t remember a passage, I pull my folded cheat sheet out of my waist pouch. I whisper the passage. With renewed energy, I carry on and know that I am not alone.
Running Opens Our Hearts to the Bible
Running is action and contemplation. There is more than one way to receive inspiration and stay strong on the course. There is more than one way to put one foot in front of the other when the body is drained and the mind is tapped out. Runners turn to their pacers, crew, and fellow runners for strength and encouragement.
Some turn to Buddhist and Zen philosophy and proverbs; for example, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” To cope with the physical and mental challenges of a running event, others turn to the Bible, which has much to offer about overcoming pain and enduring suffering in running and in life.
Runners read “running bibles.” They turn to the authority, experience, and wisdom of ordinary and elite runners, and experts in the sport of running to help them physically and mentally train, eat properly, prepare for race day, and recover from their arduous journey. I devour running books. But running is also a transformative spiritual experience that can open our hearts to the Bible. For spiritual nourishment, guidance, and strength on race day and in life, runners can always turn to the Holy Bible, the world’s all time best seller, to help carry them over the finish line.
Originally published in Huffington Post 2016/2017