Recently I joined the 900,000 who have experienced running one of the ‘parkruns’ at nearly 400 locations across the UK.
The beautiful Williamson Park in Lancaster, where I did my run, is one of the more recent places where parkruns are now organised. These are free, weekly 5km timed runs.
They are open to everyone and encourage people of every ability to take part. Each Saturday there are many cheerful volunteers in Williamson Park and other parks across the country making ‘parkrunners’ feel welcome; cheering them on as well as barcode scanning at the end to register their run time before pointing out the nearest convenient post-run café location!
Then, in our schools, have you heard of the ‘Daily Mile’? It started in a primary school in Stirling and has spread quickly to many other schools across Britain. At some point in the day pupils leave their desks and start running laps around the school field or playground. Then they return to the classroom, all bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked.
And the evidence is that it really does improve their fitness, behaviour and concentration in lessons.
The mental health charity, MIND, promotes ‘green exercise’ as a healthier more affordable and effective alternative to anti-depressants. When you then consider the physical benefits to outdoor exertion you begin to wonder why this enthusiasm for exercise is not more widespread. But as I lined up in Lancaster with 300 local runners I wanted to remind them of a verse in the New Testament which says physical training has some benefit, but training for Godly living - spiritual training - has benefit in every way.
A modern translation puts it like this: “Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gym are useful but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.”
Physical exercise concerns the here and now. But the physical is only a part of us. Our bodies wear out. Spiritual exercise concerns the here and now too … but also reaches far beyond it.
Physical training is good, but spiritual training is of infinite value.