Hey everyone! Welcome to another running article!

Today, I want to talk about joy.

Running for Fun

There is a book out there called Born to Run. It is a great book and I highly suggest it. The synopsis is it’s all about running, why we should run, and some of the ways running industries and culture have destroyed running.

In the book, you’ll see a large advocacy for barefoot running. After all, God didn’t create us with shoes to go run. He simply created us with the ability to run.

One of the most impactful parts of the book is his deep dive into the culture of the Tarahumara people. They are an indigenous people in the Copper Canyons in Mexico. Another name these people go by is: the running people.

They are the definition of people “born to run.” They love running! It’s hard to describe how much they enjoy it deep down in their souls. It is innate to their very being.

I’ll give you a peek into their life. These people also love large celebrations. Don’t we all? Yet, even after long nights of celebrating and eating and drinking (which mainly consists of deer, mice, and cactus tequila) they will still get up in the morning and go on a casual 60-mile race!

For fun!

Think about that the next time you go to a wedding or birthday party and are out later than normal, and you’re stuffed to the brim with more food and drink than you've had in months.

The Secret Sauce

But what is the secret here?

The author talks about a lot of different aspects, but again, one of the big ones that stands out is that running is in their culture.

Think about when you were a child for a second.

You ran everywhere, right? Maybe you ran around your backyard for hours playing out imagination wars in your head where you were the most epic warrior in the land like I did.

Maybe you just ran around the house like a dog with the zoomies.

Whatever it was, there was something in you that made you run and you absolutely loved it.

But then what happened?

You ran at the pool and the lifeguard yelled at you: “stop running by the pool.

You ran in the store and the manager said: “stop running in my store.

You ran in the house a little too much and your parents said: “stop running inside the house.

You ran at school and the teachers said: “stop running, that’s for the playground.

Pretty soon, all you start to hear is this mantra: “stop running.”

And so that’s what we do. We grow up, mature, obey, and stop running.

The Problem

The problem is that when we stop running as a child, the joy of running is stifled out of us. Now all of a sudden running becomes a chore and something you dread.

In fact, in almost every sport on the planet running is a punishment. “Oh, you screwed up that play, go run 3 laps!

For those who don’t enter sports, many of us still find our way back to running too. But typically it’s as a chore for the sake of our health or to give us an excuse to eat whatever we want when we get home.

But there is no joy in it.

That’s why I’m on a journey to truly understand and embrace my new mantra: “run with joy.

When we tell children to stop running in those scenarios above, none of those are bad or unwarranted.

It is dangerous to run on slippery hard tile. Who decided to combine hard slippery surfaces with a pool, I have no idea. But it is a bad idea to sprint around on it.

Running around a store is dangerous and running around the house like a maniac can obviously get you hurt too.

Telling a child to stop running, slow down, and take life in a little slower is a good life lesson. It also teaches obedience which is a great quality too.

However…if the “stop running” mantra is emphasized more than “go ahead and run” mantra then I think that’s where we start to miss the point.

Now, I’m not here to talk about childhood development, because truth be told, I don’t have any idea what I’m talking about. I’m making it up as I go, it’s all speculation, and we don’t even have kids yet. So who knows.

But what I do know is that when I was a kid, running was filled with joy, and when I grew up, that changed.

What I also know is that groups of adult human beings like the Tarahumara still run with joy.

So what I am trying to find out is: can we unlock the joy of running again?

Defining Joy

To answer this question, I believe it starts with the question of what is joy?

Now, if you Google “joy” then this is the definition you get: “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

That definition is not total garbage I suppose. But I do think it’s only half of the picture.

Let me explain.

A Better Definition

If there is one thing to know about me, it’s that I believe I am justified in the eyes of God by faith in Jesus Christ alone. I was once a sinner, condemned to God’s judgment, but because of Christ alone, I am free from the chains of sin and death.

And one of the gifts we have received from God through Christ alone is His Word. In today’s language, we tend to call this book: the Bible.

I have a point to this, don’t worry.

This means that I believe the Bible is the ultimate source of truth. It is impossible and against God’s nature to lie. Just like it is against our nature to be able to live in the sun or survive in the vacuum of space all on our own. Thus, God’s word, the Bible, has to be 100% true.

Thus, I think one of the best ways to define the word joy is to use the Bible.

Now, if you don’t yet have a relationship with the Lord, and you don’t know the amazing truth behind the words “justified by faith in Jesus” then don’t fret. This definition will still resonate with you!

So, back to defining joy.

One of the classic verses containing the word joy we have is found in the book of James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 CSB).

There is so much you could unpack there, but we want to focus on the word “joy.” There is a big idea here I want us to grasp, but to get there let’s look at two other passages from the Bible:

Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13 CSB).

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2 CSB).

Did you see the pattern of how the word “joy” was used here yet? Do you see why the definition Google spits out is only a little right?

First of all, we see that joy and suffering go hand in hand in these passages. We are called to consider it joy when we face trials. We are called to rejoice in suffering. And it says that Jesus Himself endured the cross for joy.

What's up with that? We'll get there, hold on.

Now, try replacing the word “joy” with “happy” in those sentences and you’ll see why those words are NOT synonyms.

However, if we read those passages again, we’ll see another piece of the pattern. We’ll see the why. If we endure trials we will be matured. If we rejoice in suffering it is because we know that Christ’s glory will one day be fully revealed. Despite the suffering and shame Christ endured, He knew that we would defeat death, rise again, and sit at the right hand of God.

So joy goes hand in hand with suffering, but it doesn’t stop there. It also goes hand in hand with this broader picture.

We have joy, not for the trial in and of itself, but because of what that trial leads to. Because of the future.

In other words, during suffering, we can find joy not because suffering is enjoyable, but because we know it’s temporary.

That it will either grow us or it will one day end and we too can sit in the beautiful presence of God and every tear will be wiped away.

Whoo! That got pretty theological there.

But the point of that is to define our word “joy.” Especially in terms of running. Why do the Tarahumara people still enjoy running? Why do children enjoy running? And how can we get it back?

Running with Joy

Well, I think one obvious way we get it back is by taking this truth we learned and go run with joy.

The run itself might not always be enjoyable in and of itself. When I’m in the middle of a hard marathon training block, getting up at 5 am to go run 16 miles in the bitter cold and dark does not fire me up with happiness like it does this dog.

But I can do it because I allow myself to be filled with joy.

Because I know that when the run is over, the sun will be up, the birds will be chirping, and I’ll be on a crazy endorphin kick. Heck, just physically stopping a run after 2 hours and slowing to a walk will bring so much peace and happiness, that it’s hard to compare.

It’s the kind of high that carries you through your day and reminds you that any problem you tackle in work or life can be overcome.

That’s what running with joy means to me. I run for the future joys, peace, and happiness that are to come. I run because I know something better is coming.

The best part from what I have found is that when we start running that way, pretty soon, even the run itself is enjoyable once again!

Your mind starts to clear, you come up with the most creative ideas of your life, you solve problems you’ve been stuck on for weeks, you wrestle with God in prayer, and you begin to feel that childlike joy you’ve so longingly missed once again.

The journey is far from over and I think I have more to learn, and as I do I will be sure to share.

But until then, run with joy!