Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Priestly Running Connection

(This post is reprinted, with permission, from the Boulder Road Runners Newsletter, April 2009)

Editor’s Note: Father Terrance Patrick Ryan, (good Irish name don’t you think?) is a Paulist Catholic Priest and currently resides at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on 14th Street (very close to the Casey Hill on the Bolder Boulder course). He does workshops and seminars on contemplative prayer for the church when he's not out training. Our personal connection is primarily through running as he’s trained with me and the BRR off and on for almost 30 years. He was a member of our 60-69 team at the 2007 USA XC Championships and ran on a BRR team during a 24 hours indoor relay back in the 80’s. It’s also tough to argue with him about missing workouts since he always claims to be doing “God’s Work”. He represents one of the many facets of the Boulder Road Runners and if you have someone we should meet please send me their story. Here’s his story in his own words:

I began to run on my own for fun in the seventh grade. I was good at running distance as my legs were strong from growing up riding a heavy Schwinn bicycle all over my neighborhood. When I went to high school I joined the cross country and track team. I went on to run in College at Fordham University. Cross country was my best sport. After college, I gave up running for about two years while I attended Columbia Graduate School of Business for my MBA. Few people ran as recreation back in the 60's. I moved to Chicago where it was too cold to run in the winter, but in the spring I began to run for exercise along the lake front. I needed some release from an indoor desk job. I found that running seemed to energize me,and clear my head. It was the latter 60's and there were few joggers in the Chicago parks. Then I moved to San Francisco where I could run all year and there were races like the Bay to Breakers. So I began to train and race some. I pretty much used the same kind of training I was taught in school. Running kept getting me refocused on doing healthy things. It gave me some purpose and meaning in my life while I asked the deeper question, "What is the purpose or meaning of my life?" Working for a corporation that sold some product did not seem to have enough depth for me. I kept coming back to the spiritual, as much as I kept coming back to running.

Running and spiritual questions connected for me, as both had to do with the outdoors and nature. I was never an indoor runner. Living in Northern California, I kept experiencing the grandeur of Creation in the outdoors. I found myself getting closer to my Catholic roots of quiet masses and sitting in silence with the God of my understanding who was unconditional love. This experience led me to want to talk about this loving God that I was experiencing. The priesthood seemed like a good place to be for sharing this experience.

I ran in the seminary. Running and the relaxing in the Silence of the Presence of Love seemed to go together as sharing a healthy way of life. I competed in races in the seminary. I was seeing more people jogging in the mid 70s as long distance running became popular. I have run every place I have worked as a priest. Houston was the hardest place to run both because of the weather and lack of places to run. I came to Boulder in 1980 to St. Thomas Aquinas Church where Rich and Patti Castro found me when they were looking for a running priest to do their wedding. As part of Rich's running group I met some good friends and enjoyed my most social years of running. There is nothing like a running group to keep me going. As I get older it is harder to self-motivate. But the thought of hammering another person in a group run gives a chance for my dark side to be exorcised, so that I can be nice as a priest the rest of the day.

Though people know that I run, from my sermons, I don't think that they treat me in any different way than any other priest or runner. In Boulder, it is not unusual for a person to be a runner. Another connection I find with running and my faith is in "oil". I am anointed with oil in becoming a priest and in baptism. Oil is used on athletes in the past to massage, loosen up muscles before or after a competition. My priesthood is a long distance run in which I have to show up each day, and do my best with whatever I got for that day. We have our plan for running but our plans don't always work as we would like. But we are faithful to the program and to my priesthood.

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