Monday, 23 July 2007

Run on Peacemakers by Virginia

Well I have just completed my first month's training. The upside has been that the runs I have done have sort of achieved what they were supposed to do. I am trying to follow a programme that I can squeeze in with work and childcare, of 1 long run, 1 hilly run, and 1 changing the tempo run. I managed this 2 weeks out of the 4, and have pretty much enjoyed the experience. The hill runs are probably the hardest as they consist of running up and down a stretch of hill as fast as you can for a set period, having a recovery period then starting again. The gruelling thing is that you increase both the time going uphill and the number of sessions each week, so what started out quite comfortably is now making me puff and sweat. The idea of this is to increase my body's ability to breathe more efficiently helping me eventually run faster. The same can be said of the runs that change the tempo which are slightly easier because we tend to do that at my running club. The long runs are supposed to be taken slow to build up stamina. I am trying to be disciplined about this as when I trained for the Marathon I did them too fast and kept getting colds as a result. But now I think I have been doing them a bit too slow as it took me ages to get anywhere the day I ran for 75 minutes. (And if you are wondering why I a nice non-competitive peace activist want to run faster, well it's just one of those running things. I don't want to beat anyone else, I want to beat myself.)

The difficult bit has been the toll on my body. I suffer from sciatica which means I have to be careful to do lots of back and stomach exercises, and I don't do them enough. I am used to managing this but now seem to have some on and off problems with my shins and right foot. I am hoping that these will be sorted by my fab new birthday running shoes (which will be winging their way to me soon, I had to send the first pair back because I foolishly told Chris the wrong size!)But in the meantime I have taken a little break, partly to rest up and partly because we went to the National Justice and Peace Conference at the weekend. There wasn't much time for running but plenty of time for thinking about peacemaking, particularly because of the powerful messages from our two key note speakers. The first, Fr John Dear, a long term activist and writer from the US, gave us an inspirational address which was so rich it will take me a long time to process. However, one thing that stood out immediately was his reflections on the Beatitudes, which have transformed my understanding of what was already a wonderful piece of scripture. The Beatitudes were a theme that ran through his talk and rightly so, for as he pointed out they are the core of Jesus' message on peacemaking, so much so that Gandhi read them twice a day. This was a revelation in itself. But the news that there is a recent translation which if I understood him right suggests that rather than being passive "Blessed are the poor, those who mourn" etc, the message is meant to be far more active, "Walk on you poor in spirit, Walk on those who mourn" blew me away. I am taking this one step further to inspire my running, "Run on you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God" and I will be using the Beatitudes as meditation when I go on my long runs. Thanks John for this new understanding and for the great story of the chapel of the beatitudes.

Our other speaker was also important in a different way, and I was particularly glad to meet him. Zoughbi Zoughbi, an Arab Palestinian Christian happens to be the Director of the Wi'am community, which is one of the projects supported by the International Peacemakers Fund. In a community that is hemmed in on all sides, where children and adults live with daily trauma, Wi'am offers the chance for people to find ways to resolve their conflicts peacefully and nonviolently. Zoughbi told us many stories of living under occupation, and the fact that he does so without rancour and bitterness, despite having been jailed, despite facing regular humiliations to travel short distances in his own country, gave me an insight into what true peacemaking looks like. To remain nonviolent in the face of such provocation with your only hope to bring others "to their senses, not their knees" is a challenge that Zoughbi more than lives up to. The work that his community does is vital in that it gives young Palestinians a hopeful alternative than the immediate (understandable) thirst for revenge that leads nowhere and creates more violence in it's wake.

So I have returned from the conference with a rested foot, a new meditation to aid my running and the knowledge that I have seen most powerfully why we should be supporting communities like the Wi'am community.

This week then I hope to complete a long run of up to 90 mins, a hilly run that involves 3 lots of 7 minutes continuous up and down, and a tempo run of about 45 minutes. My foot and back are a bit better so I am going to try and do some of those pesky exercises too.

Wish me Luck