Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Running In Church

Internal photo

The other day I introduced my wife to the joys of the ParkRun.

For those who don't know ParkRuns are 5km timed races that happen across the whole of the UK at the same time every Saturday morning.

They were first set up in 2008 and there are now hundreds of them up and down the country. They are completely voluntary, attract thousands of runners every week and are completely free to take part.

After her inaugural ParkRun my wife and I went with a few of the runners to a nearby cafe and chatted over coffee and pastries.

It was on the way back that my better half pointed out the obvious that was staring me in the face:

"We've just been to church!"

She then proceeded to explain how the ParkRuns are the perfect substitute for church as organised religion attendances seem to be falling in the UK.

Here are some of the similarities she pointed out:
  • In the ParkRun you have people volunteering to make a better society. 
  • A congregation (or group of runners) come together once a week and go through a set of rituals (running 5km along the same course). 
  • At the end of the race you have a small chip that you queue up to give to a time keeper. The whole process is very reminiscent of taking Holly Communion where you queue up to show you are a true believer.
  • There is a small chance that you will experience 'spiritual bliss' or a feeling of real well being. Some might call it the Holly Spirit others might call it the runner's high.
  • And at the end of the ceremony / race you break bread with your fellow believers / runners.
I'm not sure that the ParkRun is my new religion. But what I do know is that we live in an age where people are often more sceptical than ever of not only god but of the motives of our fellow human beings. Running and the ParkRuns brings out the trust I have in my fellow man and definitely makes my weeks a little more bearable.

Whatever can achieve that is a good thing and I dutifully thank god for that (whether that is the one in the sky or the guy running beside me in a pair of Nike Flyknits - I'm just not sure yet)

(The picture today is of the St Katherine Church in Bermondsey, south east London, where I got married)


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  2. Not forgetting that the first parkrun, at Bushy Park in 2004 - had 13 runners: just like the disciples!