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Holy Running

Scriptures Shine Light on Running

Published April 6, 1998, in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

Since the beginning, prophets and writers have praised the ability to run fast as a gift of God. They have glorified the swift of feet and likened many life events to running a race. As a result, the Scriptures have numerous references to the blessings of runners.

In the Old Testament Book of Samuel, Saul and Jonathan are described as "lovely and pleasant in their lives, swifter than eagles, and stronger than lions." In the Chronicles, the Gadites were "men of might, men of war fit for the battle, and as swift as the roes upon the mountains." In Isaiah, "they that wait upon the Lord shall run and not be weary."

In the Psalms, David described the righteous "as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race." Then he used an anthropomorphism for God's commandments: "His word runs very swiftly." In the Proverbs, "the wise walks in right paths, and when he runs, he shall not stumble."

However, not all biblical references to running are favorable. In the Proverbs, the Lord hated seven things, including "feet that are swift in running to mischief." In the Book of Joel, the people are warned of an invading army, "as horsemen, so shall they run, and like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap. They shall run like mighty men."

In the Lamentations, "our persecutors are swifter than the eagles of the heaven: they pursued us upon the mountains, they laid wait for us in the wilderness." In Amos, "the flight shall perish from the swift, the swift of foot shall not deliver himself, and the courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day." And in Jeremiah, "if you have run with the footmen and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?"

Ecclesiastes introduced external variables: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all."

In the New Testament, the letters of Paul have many references to running and racing. Paul, a runner, compared his apostolic life to a footrace. He wrote to the Corinthians: "don't you know that they who run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly."

To Timothy, Paul wrote: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

To the Hebrews, Paul wrote: "let us run with patience the race that is set before us." To the Galatians: "I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain." And to the Philippians: "that I may rejoice that I have not run in vain."

Paul's letters to the Galatians and Philippians inspired an old African- American hymn, "Guide my feet when I run this race, O Lord, for I don't want to run this race in vain."

Running in sacred texts extends beyond the Bible. The Book of Mormon advises that "all things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." Of the Greeks, Ben Hur wrote: "The charioteer and the swiftest runner are still idols of the arena."

In the Hindu Book of Manu, the disciple was instructed of the proper conduct in his teacher's presence: "standing up, if his teacher is seated, advancing towards him when he stands, and running after him when he runs."

In Bulfinch's mythology, the god Thor had a servant Thialfi who "was of all men the swiftest of foot." On their visit to Jotunheim, King Utgard-Loki observed that "the skill in running was something to boast of."

In the Life and Teachings of Buddha, "Few are there among men who cross the river and reach the goal. The great multitudes are running up and down the shore; but there is no suffering for those who have finished the race."

Finally, the Egyptian Book of the Dead took running to the limit: "Hail, thou Runner, Lord, Only One, the maker of all things that are."

Kamal Jabbour learned in his youth that a prayer of thanksgiving is pleasing to God. Through running we give thanks for health and freedom that we take for granted. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at

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