I absolutely hated PE when I was at school. If I could manufacture an excuse not to have to do it I would and my mother would dutifully write a note of explanation. When I managed to get a verruca it was fantastic, no PE for a few weeks whilst I went to the verruca clinic where these brutes were gouged out of our feet. My favourite depiction of school PE is in that wonderful Ken Loach film ‘Kes’. The lad in the ill fitting kit, slinking at the back was me. I was always the last to be chosen for any team – who would choose such a liability – and the ignominy of the whole business has left me scarred as you can tell!
But there was one bright spot and that was cross country running. Our school was on the edge of town and had huge playing fields and just over the railway line that ran alongside the school you could get through some fields and to the Grand Union Canal. There was a great run along the tow path and when we were in the VIth form that was what we were sent off to do. The PE teacher would wave us all off and presumably go back inside to have a cup of coffee. So I and some friends made the effort to jog around the field and out through the gate and then we strolled and chatted and had a lovely afternoon and if you jogged the last few yards to the changing room then you were sufficiently breathless to fool the teacher – who I’m sure was not fooled at all!
So I am in awe of the hundreds of people who run past the front door of the Deanery every day and the thousands who took part in the London Marathon. Now that I’m not being forced into a PE kit and the communal shower I kind of envy those who are fit enough to be able to do something like this, to run the race, to win the prize, to wear the medal. I was on the train coming home just after the end of the Marathon and there were people clutching the equipment and wearing their medals with real pride. And I shared their pride – it is wonderful that so many people train and run and commit themselves to this amazing festival of running in the way they do.
Of course the other thing that is really tremendous is the amount of money that people raise whilst they are doing it. Since the race began in 1981 over £450 million has been raised by the runners – absolutely amazing!
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12.1-2)
But I have to be fit to run any race. I’m certainly not fit to run the Marathon, hardly fit enough to run for the bus, but it’s made me wonder how fit I am to run the race of which the writer speaks. Lent was a great time for a spiritual fitness regime but now that is past and we’re in Easter did that really change anything for me? I think I may have gone back to my old ways again – spiritual flabbiness maybe.
So I need to re-examine my rule of life. It’s a great thing to have, a rule of life. Asking myself the questions
How and when will I pray?
How will I read the Bible?
When will I go to the Eucharist?
What does my stewardship of time and money look like?
can produce a renewed pattern of living with Christ, looking to Jesus who is the one ahead of me, setting the pace. So that is what I am going to do, inspired by the runners. It is after all the one race in which all are winners.
Lord, you are the goal and you are the journey;
may I run the race before me
sustained by you
and drawn by love.