Running and 'The Calling of Voices'
Our 21-mile week wraps up with 3 miles today, and then a 7-mile long run this weekend
Good morning, my friends! ☀️ I hope your Thursday is getting off to a great start, and you’re ready to go out and run your 3 miles today. How did your 5 miles go yesterday, by the way?
If you’ve been a member here for any length of time, you probably know what I huge fan I am of Kara Goucher. One of the reasons I — and many, many others — still are is that even though she’s past the peak of her professional running career, she’s still looking for new challenges.
This 6-minute video captures her run at last year’s Leadville Marathon — and captures her spirit too.
She knew she didn’t have a chance to come in first, but the effort was still meaningful to her: “Just because you can’t win a race doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting in the time and getting out there.”
When I share running songs I love to listen to in the space at the end of each newsletter, you’ve probably noticed by now that U2 are among the artists I share the most.
(They’re my all-time favorite band, and I’ve seen them 10 or 11 times in concert, going all the way back to when I was 16 years old!)
The reason I love their songs so much is the feeling I get, especially when I run to them — none more so than “Where The Streets Have No Name.”
There’s just something about that song, the essence of which the band’s lead singer Bono described in an interview as “reaching for a place you can’t quite get to.”
‘The Calling of Voices’
I share that with you because there’s something else I’ve been reading lately that reminds me of that feeling, but in an entirely different way.
It’s a sermon titled “The Calling of Voices,” by Frederick Buechner, a writer of novels, poetry, and memoirs as well as a theologian and preacher, who recently turned 94. (You can also find it in Buechner’s 2006 book Secrets in the Dark.)
As it begins, Buechner writes that at some moment in our lives, we hear a call. It might be when we’re young, it might be when we’re in middle age, or older. But it’s as if we’ve been woken in the middle of the night by something urgent.
It’s our purpose calling to us, he writes:
“We can speak of ourselves as choosing our vocations, but perhaps it is at least as accurate to speak of our vocations as choosing us, of a call’s being given and our lives hearing it, or not hearing it. And maybe that is the place to start: the business of listening and hearing. Our lives are full of all sorts of voices calling us in all sorts of directions. Some of them are voices from inside and some of them are voices from outside. The more alive and alert we are, the more clamorous our lives are. Which do we listen to? What kind of voice do we listen for?”
Many of us hear but don’t listen to that voice, he adds, perhaps because the path it calls us to seems too difficult, or too far astray from the one we’re already on. While others never hear it at all.
When we’re young, Buechner writes, is the best time to listen: “before you accumulate responsibilities, you are freer than most people to choose among all the voices and answer the one that speaks most powerfully to who you are and to what you want to do with your life.”
The siren song of status and salary become more and more difficult to resist as you get older, making that much harder to hear the voice that truly speaks to you.
Because, what’s it’s calling you to do is to take up the vocation that brings you true joy and gladness:
“There is nothing moralistic or sentimental about this truth. It means for us simply that we must be careful with our lives, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world, and so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously.”
Here’s the part I find most interesting — and moving:
“Everybody knows that. We need no one to tell it to us. Yet in another way perhaps we do always need to be told, because there is always the temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is we do not. We have only one life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us.”
As I write these words, part of me thinks I shouldn’t. Maybe this is all too abstract, too personal, too much. But, when I run, these are the places I “go,” and the thoughts I wrestle with.
Running doesn’t necessarily bring me answers. But it does help me hear those voices, especially at this moment in all our lives.
I hope you all have an amazing, amazing run out there today — wherever you are in the world — do let me know how it goes, and how you’re doing.
P.S.: I hope no one feels alienated by my choice of Buechner, a Christian theologian and writer. I draw inspiration from many places, and I want you all to know that all are welcome at this table. 👍
A song to run to today
Want to hear all the songs from our newsletters? Our full playlist contains 7 hours, 44 minutes of music to run to.