The Sanctity of Sweat

“My fitness program was never a fitness program. It was a campaign, a revolution, a conversion. I was determined to find myself, and in the process found my body and the soul that went with it.” – George Sheehan

I first read Running & Being by George Sheehan when I was a young man–say, like my mid-forties. In his book, the running guru talked about the hour run as if it was a religious ritual, or what I call the Sanctity of Sweat–immersed in perspiration, endorphins flowing, the mind free of troubles, stress dissipating like pollen through the air.

Big Sky above rows of corn on a Bucks County farm.

Big Sky above rows of corn while running by a Bucks County farm.

Among the most common reasons a runner gives to explain why they run is to shed weight or to improve their physical condition. Sheehan put it in more simple terms when he wrote, “A runner runs because he has to.” Never once have I heard a runner say he runs to find his soul, yet more than a few runners have told me they feel more connected with their inner-self, their spirit, during a long run than at any other time. I believe running goes beyond a fitness program for those runners who connect with their spirit and becomes the lifelong campaign that Sheehan describes.

Long uphill on Bucks County country road.

Long uphill on Bucks County country road.

Last week I found spirituality running the beach, and this week I connected with my inner-spirit on country roads in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, running alongside farms, majestic livestock, elegant equine. In my lifetime I’ve been in touch with my spirit running through the Rocky Mountains, the beach in Big Sur, the plains of Iowa, on top of Heartbreak Hill, Town Lake in Austin, Texas, on inner-city streets and parks. And that is the beauty of running, all you need to do is lace  up a pair of running shoes and leave the rest to the universe.

Sheehan also said, “Running is a runner’s work of art.” I take it one step further. To me, running is a medium to express myself physically and show appreciation for my health, nature, and all of my blessings.

Wildflowers perk up a wild run.

Wildflowers perk up a wild run.

When I sit down to write and find myself paralyzed between the ears, the words just won’t come, a long run never fails to break the creativity logjam. Prolific author of more than forty novels, Joyce Carol Oates, says, “When running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain.” Oates also says, “If there’s any activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can’t think of what it might be. In running the mind flees with the body, the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.”

I’m not so naive to think runners are the only human beings able to tap their inner-self, their spirit. People who meditate, practice yoga, the arts, work with their hands–woodworkers, iron workers, cement finishers–those who use their intellectual talents, and those who serve humanity can all tap their spirit by exercising their abilities. The essential thing is to find the medium that is uniquely yours and use it.

Oasis at the top of a hill.

Oasis at the top of a hill.

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Amazing forgiveness

Jim Brennan:

Frankie, who blogs and runs the beach in Buncrana, Ireland, shared his post Amazing Forgiveness after reading Spirituality of Running on the Beach. You can read Frankie’s blog at

Originally posted on Trucker Turning Write:


“What mercy can there be for me, a wretch?”

Those words were uttered by an athiest onboard a sailing ship in 1748. The ship was being ripped to shreds by a north Atlantic storm. There was a hole in the hull and she was taking on water. After hours of bailing out water he cried “Lord have mercy on us.” The words surprised even him.

On the 8th of April 1748 the wind blew the ship to Ireland, to my town, to safety.

The man was a slave trader. He later went on to change his ways and write the song Amazing Grace. You can research the rest of his story if you are intersted.

The part I find amazing is that song sounds best when it is sung, not by white people, but by those whose ancestors were once the enslaved. Such forgiveness! Such inspiration!

I live in a…

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Spirituality of Running on The Beach

“If you live on the edge of an enormous mountain or an enormous body of water, it’s harder to think of yourself as being so important. That seems useful to me, spiritually.” – Heather McHugh

After 200+ posts it seems impossible at times to find something original and fresh to write about running. Think about it: what aspect of running hasn’t been observed, contemplated, analyzed and over-analyzed to death by coaches, exercise physiologists, trainers, writers and runners themselves? When I’m in such a brain-freeze, I wait until a story comes to me, as it did running on the beach this week. I’m not referring to The Beach, as in the fragrance Kramer created, but the strip of land bordering oceans around the world.

The inspiration to write about the beach struck slowly and naturally in the midst of a long run along the coast in Sea Isle City, New Jersey. Running guru George Sheehan used to talk about the hour run like it was a religious experience. The hour run alongside the vast and mighty sea is outright spiritual. The ocean is powerful, serene, timeless and omnipresent.

The ocean can swallow a cargo ship, crush a nuclear submarine, wipe out entire towns, yet it can create the tidal energy to supply power to communities of every nation.  Meditation and yoga practitioners use soundtracks of crashing waves to sooth their minds, relax their bodies, feed their spirits. The picture of a sunrise or sunset is therapeutic. I’ve run the same beaches for decades and they are the same today as they were the first time I set foot on them. The ocean’s waters wash the sands of every shore around the globe, all at the same moment.

Running along the beach, the power of the universe seeps into your blood stream, flows with the electrons and neutrons of your brain waves; endorphins flow, sweat oozes from your pores and drips onto the sand, some fall into the water to become one with the sea–the ocean’s equivalent of ashes to ashes.


At any moment in time somewhere around the globe, runners stride along the beaches in Scotland, the Ivory Coast, Norway, Lithuania, Ukraine, North and South Korea, China, Australia, Bali, New Zealand, Argentina; the beach at Normandy, France. Beaches connect us, refresh us, restore us. The ocean is a Baptism of sorts, not in the traditional sense, but a spiritual experience practiced since the beginning of time. Ancient writings on stone tablets document cleansing rituals and purifications linked to water. It is inherent in our nature.

Anytime you run a beach, early in the morning or at late at night, you join runners around the world on adjacent coasts in other lands. Your heart beats, breath pants, sweat drips, all in unison with theirs. Running the beach is a solitary act, yet connects all of humanity.

Beach - Sunset

The hour run. The hour run on the beach–breathe it in.Seagull

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“This, Above All. . .”

Jim Brennan:

Nothing more need be said.

Originally posted on quotes4keep:

All copyrights reserved.

All copyrights reserved.

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare (Act I, Scene III)

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It’s Not Your Fault

“It’s not your fault.” Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to Will Hunting (Matt Damon) in Good Will HuntingRobin

It’s not your fault.

We love you and miss you, Robin. Your spirit will live forever.

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The Marathon Formula

Twenty Miles of Hope

BCM - Mile 20Six miles of Truth

The Runner by Bucks County, PA artist Alex Cohen

The Runner by Bucks County, PA artist Alex Cohen

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Thoreau – A Walker And A Thinker

“Go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David ThoreauKatie's Quote

Several recent post began with this Thoreau quote because they were the words Katie Ladany lived by, and in my opinion would be worthwhile for us all to consider. As I go about my daily writing routine I want to share with you a reading about Henry David Thoreau I came across this morning in Writer’s Almanac.

Walden PondIt was this day in 1854, August 9th, that his classic work, Walden, was published. Walden described the two years in Thoreau’s life during which he lived in a cabin by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, on land that belonged to his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the spring of 1845, Thoreau borrowed an ax and began clearing the land to build the 10 feet by 15 feet cabin in which he lived.

While at Walden Pond, Thoreau tended a garden, went for walks in the woods, sat and observed nature, and did a lot of writing. By the time he left Walden in 1847, he compiled his journal entries into a rough draft of the book that would eventually become Walden. There are many lessons in Thoreau’s writings, including:

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”

Thoreau seems to be saying that he was done his work at that juncture of his life and it was time to move on. There is a time in life for everything, but not to get stuck, to spread your wings, share what you’ve learned, share yourself. Recognize when it is time to move on and go.

Another lesson from Walden is: “What old people say you cannot do, you try to find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”

Thoreau must have known I would turn sixty this summer, and now that I went back and read his words, it’s time to sign up for the first ultra-marathon before the year is out.

To read the entire story about Thoreau and his time at Walden Pone that appeared in today’s edition of Writer’s Almanac, click here.

The fitting way to end this post is the way it began, with words we should all consider living by:

“Go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”


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