Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Running Intensity

I am sitting at my dining room table typing this, chowing down on a burger, fries, and yes, a post-run milkshake. Twenty miles tonight. I'm really happy. I always am after a good workout. For the distance runs, a good workout is one that I finish. My friend and marathon-teammate David came up and ran with me, but he's recovering from an injury, or staving one off, so he didn't run the last eight miles as a precaution. Running with others is always easier for me mentally. Running solo, my mind starts playing games with me, and at some point, my body almost always launches psychological warfare against my will. Here are some highlights from tonight's run.

Off the doorstep: I noticed two things. Firstly, it was chilly out. Secondly, my ankles were stiff. This could be unpleasant, I thought.

Mile 1: My ankles felt better, but within a hundred yards of starting, I realized that my perennial friend (whatever I ate last, no matter how long ago it was) intended to visit me on this run. There are 35,200 yards in a twenty mile run.

Mile 3: I noticed again that my friend/running partner, Dave, is a good conversationalist. He works on Capitol Hill and always has interesting anecdotes from his office, and knows a lot more about who did what in Congress than I ever will, so I like hearing about those things from him. He also asks me about my time in seminary, and has questions about the Church. He's a new Catholic, and so it is especially fun to answer those questions for him. New Catholics, I thought, have such a beautiful joy and excitement about everything Catholic, and everything is new to them, and so they are very often joyful and excited. Those of us raised in Holy Church take much more for granted, and are perhaps harder to shock with Church shenanigans - but that is probably less for our stronger consciences and more because of our deeper cynicism or boredom.

Mile 8: We finished our second four-mile loop. It was about 8:30 p.m. and starting to get positively chilly out. It's a new moon tonight, I think, and very dark away from the larger roads. Summer's back is definitely broken, I thought, and whatever else comes this month will be a last hurrah.

Mile 10: I noted that I still felt fine. Excellent. Last year, during the 26.2 mile marathon, I felt great at the halfway point. That I should feel fine at the halfway point of this long training run struck me as a good sign.

Mile 12: David had to stop at the end of twelve miles. He waited at my place, icing his hip and reading, while I finished the last eight miles.

Mile 13: The first mile I ran on my own. I felt great. By now, it was getting quieter out as traffic died down. Provided one has slept enough, if one has to run in the city, or at least my neck of the woods, it seems like late at night is the best time to run. Running after midnight is best, even, because many of the signs turn off, and the traffic lights blink, and the cars tuck into their garages for the night as their owners tuck into bed. The world becomes quiet, and still, and even this most densely populated part of the busiest stretch of road in my county, next to the nation's very busy capital, settles down for the night, and it feels like it did when it was a small town and I was a small child.

Mile 14: The first mile where it occurred to me that I might stop. I decided to offer the mile up instead, but I forget for whom I offered it. Well, God and the Blessed Virgin remember.

Mile 16: I offered this mile up for a friend who recently surprised with with a very kind gift. Both the gift itself and the surprise were immensely encouraging to me. A mile for him and his family seemed the least I could do.

Mile 18: This mile was the first where it started to hurt. My legs felt a bit like logs - and I don't mean the sturdy sort of logs, but the heavy sort. I was pushing myself, and please with my splits, but afraid to slow down, to take it easy. The danger with taking it easy is very much the same as the danger with pushing oneself too hard: one might just stop either way. No, a nice, regulated pace is the way to go, and I was having a hard time regulating myself. I offered this mile for Keelin, my youngest sister, who is autistic, and who is always a great source of joy and sorrow bundled together. This mile hurt more as it went along, and I take that - now as I sit here stretching and slurping a milkshake - as a sign that God was pleased with my little sacrifice for her. I found myself rationalizing slowing down, slowing more, slowing to a st... NO! Alone, in the dark, I felt sobs welling up in my chest: love; regret; physical pain; intense, intense determination like I rarely feel. I ground my teeth together, cursed, and growled, "This one's for KEELIN!" and I pushed myself, or maybe my Father in heaven pushed me, back closer to the right pace, even past the pace, I think.

The mile ended and I was very sorely tempted to stop. I was in front of my house. I was taking a brief and dangerous break to stretch. My legs didn't want to bend or straighten, tense or relax, but just wobble. I bent over to touch my toes and stretch my back. Standing next to my roommate's car, all I could see was his car's tire and my legs and toes. I almost stopped. After all, it was more than I had run last week. It was enough that I was closer to being back on schedule. Who would blame me? I was very tired, and it was getting late, and even cold, after all. I started to pray, "Father, give me strength, please. Father, strengthen my legs and my heart. I am so weak and tired, Father." I tried to say, "Amen," and straighten up. I muttered something far less pious, but much more honest, and maybe in that sense, more pious after all: "Sh*t. Let's just do this &%@#%^$ thing." Not the best way to end a prayer, but probably better than ending the run, and so I hope you will see why I think there may have been a grace bundled up with my mutterings.

Mile 19: I offered for my running parter and his wife, who are expecting their first child. I passed a man walking his dog.

Mile 20: These miles were for my sister Megan, her husband, and their babies. They have two under two years old - talk about studs! I passed the man and his dog again, from the opposite direction. He called out to ask how I was doing. I called back, "Finishing up twenty, and I'm feeling fine." The second part was an exaggeration more than a lie. Oddly enough, as in my days back in school running cross country, my last miles were as good as my first.

The whole twenty miles took me 2 hrs, 58 min, 57 second. That puts me at a pace of 8:55 min/mile, which is fast enough to break a 4 hr marathon by a minute or two. That's OK, but I didn't count the stretch breaks into the time, so I'll need to cut those down, as well as pick up the pace a bit.

That's for tomorrow, though. For tonight, I am going to pop a few ibuprofens, say my prayers, and hit the hay. I've got a few things to do in the morning before I can even think of a nap, so I'll definitely need some z's tonight.

A couple other random thoughts:

(1) A couple with whom I am friends ran their first half-marathon today up in Philly. I'm pretty pumped for them, and hope it went really well. They're really cool people and they have a nice little boy, and are a brother and sister in Christ. They've trained long and hard, and, well, it's cool... no, beautiful, to see such things unfold. More studs.

(2) A good friend of mine is a deacon-seminarian. I posted his first homily back in May because I was so moved by it. He is in residence on weekends at a parish near me, and tomorrow will be preaching the midday Mass. The Archbishop has asked every clergyman in the diocese who preaches tomorrow to preach about same-sex marriage. The issue is really coming to the fore here locally. My friend was sharing some of his thoughts for a homily with me on the phone the other night. Golly, what a hard thing to preach about: both the Church's teaching and the Church's love must shine forth, both are doubted by much of the world and many sitting in the pews, and only words can be used. I want to go hear him preach because he will do a good job. Another stud.

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