Today was my “long run” day. It’s all relative when it comes to working out. Up in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee, getting away to re-discover quiet. A chance to read, think, strum a six-string, write. No television. Out of the range of my Blackberry’s wide net.

It was early morning. The birds still pushing the snooze button. The spiders were pissed that I interrupted them spinning in their silvery hammock. The Sun barely peeked through the the pines and water oak that cover these mountains like Kudzu.

I stretched, tightened my laces, and began the trip that would meander through these mountain roads. Hoping my natural global positioning system (a landmark there, a mailbox there, a torn down road sign) would lead to a safe return.

I have grown to love the run. I love the ride more, but my Trikke was not built for mountain roads and their treacherous turns. At first, the mountain air and the mild burn was exhilarating. It felt great and I knew this would be a memorable run. I rounded a bend to negotiate my first incline. “No problem,” I said to myself. I reached to turn up the volume on my iPod and leaned into it. Minutes later I was saying, “This isn’t a Smoky Mountain road. It’s freakin’ Mount Everest.” I thought I was going to die right there become Nike roadkill. Just when I thought cardiac arrest would set in, a turn, a mild decline, an aerobic slide. It was just long enough for me to tackle another uphill trek. With each uphill stretch I cursed the mountain and my decision to take it on. With each decline or leveling-out I told myself I was King of the World.

I made it back to our little cabin without tire marks on my back or any known injury. The birds laughed and greeted the morning. The spiders were working the morning shift webbing away. I sat on the porch and overlooked the creek and thanked my God for His nature and for allowing my body to endure and grow from the mountain. My mind went immediately to this world and its challenges.

You see, we have had this place of comfort for so long in this country. For many, we were comfortable with our own roads and paths and porches and neighbors. It wasn’t that hard for a lot of us. The world’s problems were only as close as the paper or nightly news made them. But  the mountains were always there. Just not as close. We could take the easy route; ignore or dismiss or rationalize that things are “their problems…we have our own.” I don’t understand anymore why we define ourselves by our geography, by our borders, by our language. The floods in Pakistan, the poverty in the Congo, the violence in Somalia, the unrest in the Middle East, the human rights violations across the globe should all be MY problem; OUR problem. The Long Run may be the one outside of my neighborhood. Outside of my state, my country, my continent, my fictional boundaries.

My prayer: Lord, take me on the Long Run. Prepare my heart. Give me courage and endurance and a great pair of shoes.


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