Monday, March 7, 2011

Perpetua, Felicity, and Running a 10K


Today the Church honors the memories of Perpetua and Felicity - 2 saints we pray for when we use Eucharistic Prayer I. Perpetua and Felicity were two women who were victims of the Roman persecution of the early church and were tortured and eventually killed in the arena for sport.

A quote from their reading from today's Office of Readings: "The day of the martyrs’ victory dawned. They marched from their cells into the amphitheater, as if into heaven, with cheerful looks and graceful bearing. If they trembled it was for joy and not for fear. Perpetua was the first to be thrown down, and she fell prostrate. She got up and, seeing that Felicity was prostrate, went over and reached out her hand to her and lifted her up. Both stood up together... The people, however, had demanded that the martyrs be led to the middle of the amphitheatre. They wanted to see the sword thrust into the bodies of the victims, so that their eyes might share in the slaughter...Perpetua, that she might experience the pain more deeply, rejoiced over her broken body and guided the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman – one before whom the unclean spirit trembled – could not perhaps have been killed, had she herself not willed it."

This doesn't make the approaching of Lent sound so bad!

Now, what about the 10K? This past Saturday I ran in a 10K in order to get a seeding time for the mini-marathon in May. I had to get an official time so that I could prove that I shouldn't have to start back with the walkers in May. (See picture below of me at the Mini 2 years ago)

I ran the 10K two years ago for the same reason, and both years, the same incredible thing happened to me at almost the exact same spot in the race.

Now it should be known that I'm not a very good runner and I don't really know what I'm doing. Both years, I have started out way faster than I should have, and so both years, as mile marker 4 approached, I was doubting whether I would be able to finish the last 2.2 miles. Thoughts of quitting or at least slowing down seemed to race through my head.

And this year it happened again at mile marker 4. Some anonymous runner came up from behind me and then just started running alongside of me. We didn't look at each other and we didn't say a word to each other (we were too tired!). We just ran together, step for step, for 2.2 miles. It was so much easier to run once I had someone along side of me. What had seemed like an uphill race where I was isolated and alone for the first 4 miles suddenly became a partnership with some anonymous and unlooked for companion who was now jogging alongside me.

After the races both years I simply gave the guy a five and said, "Thanks for the pacing!" Both years the anonymous runner said "Thanks for your pacing too." It was eerie how it had happened the same way for me both years.

Why does this have to do with Felicity and Perpetua? As I was running with my anonymous companion both years I recalled the idea that saints often come in pairs. Felicity and Perpetua, Francis and Clare, Benedict and Scholastica, Peter and Paul, (and perhaps John Paul II and Benedict XVI someday) - these are just some of the most famous examples of how saints seem to often pop up in pairs. Why is this the case? It seems clear that it is much easier to run the race of life and to persevere through adversity when someone is running alongside you, pacing you, you pacing them, getting into a rhythm and knowing that whatever experiences occur you will be experiencing them with someone at your side.

A shout out to my running companions from both years, and may we seek out those who will run alongside us in the race towards sainthood and the Heavenly Kingdom.