The season of Easter is also the season of running. Each weekend during the Spring, marathon runners take to the streets prove to themselves they can run the race. Even the Boston Marathon, which occurs on the third Monday of April each year, often falls near Easter.
Easter is a perfect time to connect the ordinary experience of running, training, and racing to the Christian faith through a Christian meditative practice called lectio divina. One might call this a “runner’s lectio divina.”
Let’s look at the story of the Resurrection:
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
The Runner’s Lectio Divina: An Easter Meditation for Running
If you are continuing your training during this Easter season, take some time to meditate upon this Scripture. Don’t be scared by the word “meditation.” I simply suggest that while you run, think about this story and put yourself in the shoes of one of the people in it.
This might be called a “runner’s lectio divina” because you are letting the Scriptures bring you into an experience by placing yourself within them.
Traditionally, there are at least four phases of the lectio divina:
- Read (lectio)
- Meditation (medatatio)
- Pray (oratio)
- Contemplate (contemplatio)
An Example Lectio Divina for Runners
I went for a run on Easter day this year (the first run in awhile!). At the end of the run, I imagined myself as Peter running to the tomb. I imagined what it would have felt like to run like that.
What was Peter thinking?
What was he feeling?
Jesus was Peter’s close friend, mentor, Messiah, and God. He thought he had lost him (he “did not understand the Scripture”). So in a time without hope, he ran with hope restored in seeing his friend again.
I could imagine him thinking:
“What? Jesus is alive?! I thought I had lost him. I thought I would never see him again.”
My legs are moving but they are not moving fast enough. I can’t wait to see him again. To hear his voice. To ask him questions. To thank him for what he has done. To ask for forgiveness–oh how I need it. . .”
“I can see it there on the horizon (at the finish line). I must run faster. I must see that he is alive!”
The last part of my short run was focused on these thoughts and feelings. I imagined thinking and feeling these things myself.
I imagined myself as Peter.
This is a lectio divina for runners.
Step-by-Step Lectio Divina for Runners
From a practical perspective, here is how you might organize your running lectio divina:
- While stretching: read John 20:1-9 (or another Scripture verse about running).
- While running: imagine yourself as Peter (or John or Mary Magdalene) and recreate what they might think and feel while you run.
- After the run: pray spontaneously about what you have experienced while on the run. To keep things simple: ask God for the grace to be changed as a result of this encounter with him through the Scripture.
- In prayer later in the day or evening: recall your experience while on the run today. Don’t think, just be present with the God you ran to earlier in the day. (Admittedly, this is the hardest form of prayer.)’
Update: It turns out there is a short book on the Lectio Divina for runners available on Amazon. Check it out: Running with Scripture: Using the Lectio Divina While Running.