Running And The Spiritual Trail

AJW’s thoughts about running and spirituality.

By on March 3, 2017 | Comments

AJW's TaproomThe great theologian and philosopher Albert Schweitzer characterized spirituality as “that feeling of significance that comes from a sense of being connected to a world beyond ourselves that is at once coherent and purposeful.” From my perspective, there is nothing more spiritual in my life as my running. Running not only connects me to a larger world but, indeed, brings coherence and purpose to an otherwise scattered and chaotic life.

I reflected on this passage last weekend as I spent half a day running through the eastern woodlands on a sneaky early spring day. I looked back on my life as a runner and forward to my hopes and dreams for the future and couldn’t help but revel in all the spiritual gifts running has given me. At the risk of coming across as corny or sappy, I have to admit that running has brought me closer to my spirit than anything else in my life. All this is done by connecting me to that bigger something that has been elusive in other parts of my life.

What that bigger something is exactly, I am not sure. But what I do know is that when I am out there–in the mountains, the woods, the desert, and the country–I am at peace. And that peace emanates soulfully and simultaneously from what’s inside and outside. We, as humans, long for belonging, we strive for a sense of connectedness, and we yearn for whatever that world beyond might bring us. We may not know it in the moment, but there is something inherently hopeful in the human endeavor. And, I have to say, there are few places, if any, in this life where I feel more human than when I run.

Meaning and purpose are fleeting. And yet, organized into some sense of coherence and order, the foundation of our existence is often borne out in life’s most basic pursuits; eating, sleeping, and breathing all come immediately to mind. But so too, does running.

You see, for the runner, life’s essence can often be boiled down to the fundamentals. For the runner, our meaning is honest, our focus is clear, and our purpose is obvious. Spend enough time with long-distance runners and you’ll quickly learn this because for us, running, at it’s most foundational level, is every bit as important as eating, sleeping, and breathing. And, in that context, with the rest of life stripped away, there is nothing that bares the spirit more than the simple extraordinary act of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, in fact many times, it may be all that we need.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

KettleHouse Double Haul IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from KettleHouse Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana. I was first tipped off to this brewery several years ago when a couple of beer-crazed Montanans tracked me down on the eve of Western States at the Squaw Valley Lodge and forced me to try KettleHouse’s amazing Cold Smoke Scotch Ale. Well, that is not this week’s Beer of the Week but KettleHouse’s Double Haul IPA is. This is a wonderfully balanced, fresh-tasting American IPA which deserves attention. Smooth drinking and thoughtfully hopped, it’s a nice new take on the traditional variety.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you have a ‘spiritual trail’ and, if so, what’s it like for you?
  • Is running at all a spiritual experience for you? Can you explain how?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.