By Julie Peyton

Julie PeytonIN THE SPRING OF 1989 I JOINED A TEAM to run the Hood-to-Coast Relay Race. I was looking for some inspiration and motivation to get into shape and maybe lose some weight. Running wasn’t fun, I was always among the slowest of the slow in school, but it was aerobic and “good for you.”

There are no shortcuts, no easy outs when training to run 15 miles (the event has each runner out there 3 times, for distances of approximately 5 miles each time). Eleven other people are expecting you to prepare, to log the miles, to do your part. My simple goal was to run every step when it was my turn.

I began training at the track, alternating walking and jogging the four laps that made up one mile. By the end of a week, I could jog the entire mile without stopping. From there it was a gradual progression of distance, no longer at the track but instead up and over Terwilliger Blvd. Three to four times each week I’d get out the door and run. I didn’t like it, but it was “good for me.”

I didn’t know my teammates. A friend of mine worked at a company whose team needed one more person. We met as a group only a couple of times before the race, and they were all Runners. They wore Lycra and spandex; they had technical shirts. But they welcomed me and I was part of the Team.

For 26 hours my van-mates and I ran, ate, slept, and encouraged each other.

I met my goal, finishing the third of my three runs, a 6.2-miler in the coastal range, with joy and confidence. It was all perfect. I had run every step of those three runs! I was pleased, proud, amazed that I could do this. My teammates and I celebrated our accomplishments, and we parted as friends. [I would run with them for the next two years.] For weeks afterward there was this glow, this joy, this aura of wonder surrounding the memory of that long day.

And then I heard The Voice. It said, “What if you put the same focused energy into your spiritual life as you have just put into your physical life?” It was a sobering question, a deep question, a question bursting with potential. It was, as I would learn among Quakers later, a Query.

Julie Peyton is on the Good News Associates board and is a member of West Hills Friends Church, Portland.