I ran in my city's Memorial Day 3K fun run yesterday morning, a low-key race I often participate in. It's flat and fast and free, and you get a T-shirt at the end.
This year my church had a contingent of parishioners run in the race wearing distinctive T-shirts extolling its mission. It has been struggling to rebuild its membership following the defection of its former chief priest with a majority of the congregation under his charismatic sway to a homophobic, misogynistic sect, taking the entire church property worth tens of millions with them!
It took six years of litigation by the Episcopalian diocese to evict these squatters, which finally happened last year following years of lonely worship in the loft of a church across the street by a core of local believers in the church's obligation to be inclusive rather than exclusive in its message of love. The lengthy enforced separation from its historic and rightful property decimated the church's local congregation base but didn't destroy its message of true faith.
We followed the lead in the race yesterday of the newly arrived chief priest who issued a challenge to any church member who was his age or older of buying a beverage of choice at the local pub for anyone who beat him. He might have re-hydrated there after the race, but he didn't spot a beverage for anyone else.
As soon as I showed up before the race I could see in his attire and his build that he was a runner. It's hard to spot that otherwise when the only time I normally see him he's in a shapeless flowing robe, showing nothing and hiding all. (Above: Reverend John is on the left, next to the only parishioner who beat him in the 3K run.)
Plus he was being largely uncommunicative before the race. I recognized the attitude from my salad days of racing last decade--friendly but focused on the upcoming task.
The gun sounded and off we went. The priest took the lead of the church's congregation amongst the first wave of racers and never looked back, I didn't see him again after the first minute.
I was running a race in isolation because there was no way I could keep up with the priest and except for a younger parishioner who was hanging with him (and beat him), I was faster than the rest of the congregation members who were there in their distinctive T-shirts (I think). I started off steadily at a swift enough pace for me these days, glad that I had jogged the mile from my house to the starting point thus infusing my blood with oxygen already in my exertions. (Above: Pre-race.)
Round the first four corners we went as the race stretched out from its jammed, pell-mell start to a more ordered series of groups of runners running at the same pace. As we approached the final turn slightly past the halfway point onto the long last straightaway to the finish, my watch read eight minutes. Although I was tiring and people were steadily starting to pass me, I was hanging in there.
The city blocks of the long last stretch were interminable but the raucous crowd support was nice. We passed the Catholic church then the new high rise unit then the library and there was the final signal light just before the end less than a block away. I glanced at my watch and it showed 14:40, with a little effort I could break fifteen minutes.
I bestirred myself and finally stanched the steady flow of runners passing by me. I hit the finish line at 14:55, an 8:00 pace, happy with my effort and my race.
Father John had finished a minute and a half ahead of me. When I saw him shortly later, he hardly looked bushed at all.