In the Long Run
by Paul Walker
A few years ago realised I was fat and unfit. As part of a bet
which I had lost, I was persuaded to take part in a half marathon.
The training for this event began exhaustingly, but gradually improved.
After a year my life was transformed. I had lost weight and become much
fitter. I ran the thirteen miles of the half marathon in just under two
hours. To my complete amazement I enjoyed running and still do it. It has
even helped me stop smoking.
I�ve now begun training for a triathlon - that is, a swimming, cycling
and running event. A few years ago I would have considered a person like
myself to be mad.
Although getting fit is very hard work, it is equally rewarding. Yet
the way modern society works somehow mitigates against fitness. Obesity in
the West is reaching epidemic proportions. People would rather drive their
children 500 metres to school than walk them there. Sport has become
something to watch, not to play.
Ironically there is probably more money spent on exercise devices and
diets than ever before. Yet we continue to get fatter and lazier. In the
end many people prefer surgery. It is easier to lose fat under the knife
than by hard work. We live in a society dominated by the quick fix. The
idea of giving years, let alone a lifetime to something, is inconceivable.
This is not only true for exercise. When I recently asked a group of
people if they�d read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, only two
out of thirty said yes. Most of the rest said they�d seen it on
television. Similarly, fewer and fewer people are learning to play the
piano. More money is spent on eating in high class restaurants - but fewer
know how to cook.
Is it then surprising that a similar attitude seems to affect our view
of religion? Many people give religion a quick try, either by thinking
about it for a few minutes or even by turning up at a place of worship.
But they find the experience boring or incomprehensible and so they
conclude that it has no value.
Others find the world incomprehensible. In religion they find very
simple answers. And so with little effort they take religion on board. In
a world of quick fixes it is hardly surprising that the Churches which
seem to be successful are those that say that all you need to be "saved"
is a simple act of giving your life to God. The act of repentance turns
out to be a lot easier than a lifetime of effort.
Yet I believe people are spiritual beings. By this I mean that most
people seem to have a yearning to make sense of the world at a level other
than that of scientific explanation. Our minds benefit from being stilled,
from meditation and prayer. But such practices are a form of exercise.
They are hard work. They are not stimulated by entertaining worship, or by
simple books, or by watching gruesome films - but by being quiet away from
In another article I wrote that I do not pray. I am not here
contradicting myself. Personally I get little from trying to contact an
outside being. Yet I am aware that the more time I spend in quiet, trying
to empty myself of the noise that everyday life throws at me, the more I
feel at peace.
Again and again I find it hard trying spend such time, just as I find
it hard to give time to running. But the more I do so the more at peace I
I have a long way to go, for this is the work of a lifetime. But one
thing I do now firmly believe - there are no quick fixes. There are no
easy ways to make sense of my existence and consciousness. There are no
A lifetime spent contemplating the questions has got to be more
worthwhile than watching inane television shows, singing inane choruses or
pretending that there is no question in the first place.
You may wonder how on earth I fit in the time. First, I hardly ever
watch television. Why don't you try that? And second, I have found that
stilling my mind is done most effectively while exercising.