While many in the Spokane area worshipped in various religious services Sunday morning, I ran the St. Paddy’s Five. Running is more than just an athletic event, it’s a celebration of community; it’s a place to be accepted for who I am. Liberal or conservative, skinny or round, young or old, evolutionist or creationist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, or none, we were all there to exercise. Walkers enjoyed the event as well as racers; those who were out of shape as well as top athletes. We spurred each other on towards one goal: the finish line.
But this was more than just the finish line of a race. Participants understand that donuts and inactivity eat away at life much like the traditional view of sin eats away the soul. And these types of organizations are growing fast. The Flying Irish running club in downtown Spokane, for example, had over 500 runners for their first weekly run of the new season last week. That’s more than 100 percent growth from just a year earlier, which had previously recorded 100 percent growth from the year before that. The Bloomsday and the Hoops festivals shut down Spokane with crowds like a small city. Fleet Feet in downtown Coeur d'Alene, to which I belong, is a more intimate group. We practice track work, hills, and distance running three times a week, spurring each other on toward events such as the Coeur d'Alene Marathon. There are many other similar clubs, like Bloomsday Road Runner’s Club or Lake City Triathlon, and more being formed all the time.
Long before the rise of Christianity, Islam, or many other religions, the Hellenized Greek and Roman world practiced community through athletic competition. In fact, Hellenizing Jews built a gymnasium right next door to the Jewish temple and competed in the ancient Olympic Games. The Greeks were way ahead of their time. They understood the brain, body, and soul connection researchers only now are rediscovering. Blood flow from exercise is good for body, mind, and soul. The sense of well-being attained through athletics binds people together in a feeling of community.
Obviously not everyone’s a runner. So there’s volleyball, soccer, softball, hockey and every other organization that can be imagined under the sun. Connection on the move is a great way to make friends, improve health and feel good at the same time. And what seems impossible for one can be achieved in community.
Bruce Meyer writes about the relationship between the physical universe and the pursuit of spirituality.