In cycling it’s called the Red Kite Prayer. There’s a red triangle flag that marks the last kilometer of a road race. Once you pass under this flag you are so close to the finish and yet anything can happen. It’s when your ego wants to celebrate the win but your mind knows there’s many a slip twixt cup to lip. Even the action of riding a straight line to the finish can be spoiled by fate or competition.
In running races we hit a point where we recognize our fitness level for the day and pick out our place in the pecking order. The further up the ability line we go the more anxiety creeps into the picture. The only reason I prefer an out and back race course is so I can count the runners in front of me. I’ve been lucky on some days to count them on one hand…on most other days I’m “carrying the one” if you know what I mean.
On those good days, when you know you’ve got the engine and you’re in a good position, your mind can wander and bring thoughts of doom to your soul. Your mind is not your friend. It wants to drown you in doubt and bring the shadow of failure to your door. It can begin with a loosening shoelace, a twinge in your hami or a rumble in your gut. This is where you start making deals with the devil and praying to the angels.
While we’ve all heard or given crap to Tim Tebow for praying in public we have to admit of our own selfish nods to The Man (or Woman) upstairs. There’s no shame in asking for help. And while we may sometimes pray for clean shorts over world peace we are still good people.
On a recent occasion I did my share of praying and it was all centered around my toe. By mile 5 of a wet 50-miler I already felt a monstrous blister forming. With every foot fall I could feel the burn of lifting skin and the painful pressure building. And then it started…the Runner’s Prayer…
Dear God…yes, it’s me AGAIN. I’m in a pickle here and could use some help. No, no, no…this isn’t about the hand gesture I made to the school bus the other day…this is something else. What? No, it’s not about that thing I did in the woods after a coffee and a Clif bar. Listen, while all the world is in turmoil I need you to make the blister on my toe go away. Yes, I am bothering you over a blister. I know…disease, war, poverty and the devil…yes, and I am still praying for a little blister help. Hello? Is there anyone here? Where did you go? Ow! Why does my toe hurt more?
And for the next 45 miles I felt the repeated cycle of swelling, bursting, swelling, bursting…and on and on…
So let’s hear it Trail and Ultra Running congregation. Post your running prayers below. Share with us your “Ask of the Devine” and don’t be shy. You’re among friends here…even you, the guy who seemed to be reading War and Peace in the Port-a-John 5-minutes before the race.
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