Thursday, 18 July 2013

Will We Run Marathons In Heaven?

Do you believe in god?

I know this is a running blog, but when I run my mind wanders and I seem to have very little control of where my thinking will flow. Most of the time my thoughts are incredibly random along the lines of: “There’s a dog. There’s a tree. Don’t bite me dog. Have I run out of cereal? Here comes the hill.” While other times I can get relatively philosophical. Which is what happened today. Hence my question: Do you believe in god?

As a runner when it comes to god I’m what you might call a 24 mile believer. Most of the time I am relatively agnostic or verging on atheism. But when running a marathon I become a believer at around mile 24 and start praying.

And so it was this morning when I was running my usual 10k that I began to wonder - if there is an afterlife would there be any marathons up there in heaven?

If heaven is meant to be an eternal paradise would I get to do all the things I enjoy while I am down here on earth? And as I enjoy running marathons surely there would be room and time up there to run a few 26.2 miles.  

Well first of all I think that for there to be marathons in heaven you would need a physical body, and so I would have to rule out ideas of “dualism”. Dualism is the idea of a mind-body-split (or soul-body-split) where the soul leaves the physical body after death and ascends to heaven. Now - even though I haven’t really given it much thought before - I have always been an instinctive dualist. Possibly the most famous dualist was French philosopher Rene Descartes of “cogito ergo sum” fame (“I think therefore I am”). But I just don’t see how you could run a marathon purely by thinking... So I am more of a “curro ergo sum” kind of guy (I run therefore I am). 

Luckily for me then Judaism, Christianity and Islam all seem to share the belief that we will have physical bodies in the afterlife and be able to enjoy physical pleasures. In the New Testament First Corinthians 15:52 says “the dead will be raised incorruptible”. And in the Old Testament Job spoke about “In my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25). Islam similarly believes in a physical afterlife, a resurrection of all the dead will take place on the Last Day and is physical, it is explained by suggesting that god will re-create the decayed body "Could they not see that God who created the heavens and the earth is able to create the like of them"?(17:100).

Therefore assuming there is an afterlife, assuming we will have physical bodies and assuming someone will be organising these marathons in eternal paradise this leads to the next big question: 

What kind of marathons will I run in the afterlife?

The first problem I come up against is that if heaven is meant to be eternal bliss there is no doubt that there are parts of a marathon that are far from blissful. I said at the start that I am a 24 mile believer - but what I forgot to say is that mile 25 is when I actually believe in the physical manifestation of the devil and his desire to punish me! A marathon is not a marathon without feeling pain and the bliss often comes from conquering that pain and pushing on through.

And so now I have the perverse notion that I will feel pain (temporary of course) in heaven.

Then I ask myself what time will I run the marathon in heaven?

Surely if I am in heaven I will run the best marathons I have ever run. Does that mean every marathon up there will be a Personal Best time (PB)? And if that is the case assuming I am up there forever I will be able to run an infinite number of marathons. If each one is a PB even if each PB is only one second better than my previous race eventually I will be running them faster than Usain Bolt! (Keep in mind “eventually” could be a few millennia when you are talking about eternity).

And finally talking of “races” where will I come? Will I be running these marathons alone or will I be running them with the greatest marathon runners of all time from Phidippides onwards. Surely we can’t all come first. So will some people have “more perfect” marathons than others?

I tried to have this conversation with my wife who is more of a “starting line believer” as opposed to my “24 mile belief”. But she just rolled her eyes at me, and mumbled something under her breath. I didn’t catch all of it but I think the gist was: 

“You will be running marathons in the afterlife - but if you keep talking so much nonsense you don’t need to worry about how they will be organised in heaven...”.

(The picture today is of "heaven" and "hell" at the finishing line of the Amsterdam Marathon)

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