On race day, qualities over quantities

A Christian Science perspective. How does the Boston Marathon bring spiritual qualities to light?

Today marks the 117th Boston Marathon, the oldest and one of the most prestigious foot races in the United States, stretching 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Mass., into the heart of downtown Boston.

Before runners step foot over the starting line, many thoughts will already be racing through their heads. “Don’t start out too fast,” “I hope I don’t get tired early in the race,” and “Maybe I can set a personal record!” might be a few of them.

But before thinking about the quantities involved with the race – time, distance, pace, and finishing place – it’s important to think about the qualities that get us to the starting line and over the finish line with a sense of satisfaction.

As I prepared to run the Boston Marathon a few years ago, I looked for spiritual inspiration for race day. I considered this prayer and study to be a large part of my overall training regimen.

As I sought to better understand God’s qualities, I found this definition of God from the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, most helpful. Mrs. Eddy defines God as, “The great I AM; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence” (p. 587).

The seven synonyms included in this definition help us identify and relate to God’s omnipotent care, power, and love for all He created. And this detailed definition of God helps us approach prayer with scientific certainty, just as Christ Jesus did. What better way to use the many miles of a marathon than to dwell on the qualities found in these synonyms, rather than limited, discouraging, or even painful thoughts that might want to take over!

There are seven towns along the Boston Marathon course leading to the finish line at Copley Square: Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline. I assigned a synonym of God to each of the towns, and as I ran through them during the race, I found myself reflecting on the permanent and good qualities of the marathon experience, casting aside the limited measurements of time and distance.

Among my prayers, I focused on Principle, which had inspired me to learn patience and practice perseverance while running hundreds of miles to prepare for the race. I focused on Truth, which affirms the true nature of humanity as children of God made “in his own image” (Genesis 1:27), expressing grace and joy rather than exhaustion and discomfort. And I thought about the one all-knowing, all-acting Mind, which is never the source of negative thinking or discouraged thoughts, but instead reflects through us God’s unlimited goodness, purity, and power.

As I ran through Brookline into Boston’s city limits, passing the iconic Citgo sign, I focused on the synonym of Love, rejoicing in the omnipotent care bestowed on me, the other runners, and the race volunteers and spectators. I felt God’s encompassing love as I rounded the corner onto Boylston Street and sprinted to the finish.

We all have instances in our lives that we could liken to a marathon, such as searching for a job, raising and caring for a family, deploying with the military, or fighting an illness. Anything we think is bigger than ourselves can loom before us like 26.2 miles full of twists, turns, and steep hills. We have the opportunity to recognize, through prayer, that the apparent size of any challenge is nothing compared with the everlasting spiritual qualities that are guiding us each step of the way.

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