I showed up at the race in shorts and a long sleeve shirt with a vest which I stowed my car and house key in on this cold Saturday morning. A southern woman walked by me in the parking lot and remarked in a southern twang voice, “Shorts!? Aren’t you cold?” I wondered if I stood out in other ways too. Honestly always finding Born-again and Bible-thumping Christians judgey and off-putting. But who am I to judge?
I smiled and walked away toward the gym where I needed to pick up my packet. I was surprised at how organized the race was. A chipped race, with many people milling about. As with any race, they tend to take what seems like forever to start and you are underdressed until it begins and then tend to feel overdressed as you are running! When I crossed the start line I felt good. Surprisingly good. I chatted with Jesus and the Founding Master of Won Buddhism in my head. Maharaji too who repeated to me the mantra “Enjoy this and Be Here Now.” Running has never come easily to me. Yoga and swimming, yes. But running, no. I hit the one-mile mark quickly and my goal to ‘just finish’ turned into a goal to place in the race.
Around mile two my headphone batteries ran out of juice so I stuck them in my vest pocket. A little boy of about 10 years old was running next to me. He looked at me and said, For every downhill, there is an uphill. I found these words to be so wise. Wasn’t my life like this? Easy spots followed by difficult ones. I looked back at him and said, “You should do a sermon on that.” He smiled. Then he continued to chat away to me much to my dismay. Listening to him was taking up my energy. “Let’s listen to Jesus!” I exclaimed. He glanced at me a little surprised and was quiet for a few moments. Then he started up again. Finally, I said, “Shhh…let’s concentrate on our run.” He ran ahead and then lagged behind. We didn’t run together after that. I felt a little badly but then..I let it go. I later saw him after the race and he seemed unaffected by my comment. Chatting away with me again.
The final 1/8 mile of the race, we were to carry a board across our back to represent Jesus dying on the cross. When I was handed the board by a group of smiling Christian teens, it did feel quite spiritual and well difficult too, as I lumbered up the hill over the finish line. All in all, it was a physically challenging and emotionally enriching experience. I placed 3rd place for my age group. When the awards were being announced the woman at the podium said, “I prayed that you would show up today.” I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I felt born again (and again) not unlike the other people there. In my tote bag given to me, I found a copy of the New Testament. As I write this piece, I am glancing over at it which is now resting inside of my Won-Buddhism Scriptures book. I guess we aren't that different. Born again (and again).