I decided not to worry about running while I was abroad. It was only nineteen days, and I knew each day would be packed, so a commitment to running while I was there would only make me feel bad about not achieving it. The town was plenty hilly, so I’d be sure to get a workout. And I didn’t want to be “that American” running the streets of a medieval town while both the locals and the tourists glared.
My plan was to get right back into it when I returned, but my cranky belly staged a revolution and kept me from hitting the streets until a few days after we got back. Yesterday morning I decided, despite the lingering pain in my guts and hunger from not having eaten when I was sick, to give it a go.
The route I chose was a familiar one to me, down the quiet roads near my parents’ house. It’s a modest 3.25 miles I often “ran” long before I could call myself a runner, when I would shuffle off with my crappy sneakers and walkman cassette player and envy those people for whom it all came more easily.
As expected, the run was awful, despite a soft morning rain that seemed to finally temper the heat that’s been blasting New England. The muscles I used to climb the stairs and hills of Assisi are not the same ones that propel me down the flat pathways of New England. I was famished and trying to ignore the pain in my stomach. But I had to get back at it. I just had to.
This morning, fueled by the pasta I ate last night with my parents and my first un-jet-lagged night of sleep, I hit the roads again. It was still a challenge, but less of a challenge than the day before, and I finished the route a full five minutes faster than yesterday.
Tomorrow, perhaps faster again.
As the Feast of St. Ignatius creeps up on us my friends at Loyola Press are once again running a now-annual Find Your Inner Iggy series. Perhaps my favorite detail from the life of Ignatius is that when he decided to follow the voice of God into the priesthood, he had to start learning the rudiments of Latin with young boys, and then went on to be one of the older students at the University of Paris.
For someone as proud as Ignatius had been – at least in his early life – I’ll bet there was a temptation to great humiliation in his educational endeavors. It’s so much easier to say “I can’t” when it’s not that we can’t, but that our pride can’t stand it.
With his bum leg from a cannonball shot, I doubt Ignatius ever gave much thought to running in his later life. Still, his tenacity and willingness to work through that which is uncomfortable or embarrassing inspires me as I charge up whatever hill is in front of me. I wonder if he found, as I have, that doing something that challenges, doing something one is not good at, frees us from the tyranny of our talents and pride and shows us something new about ourselves.