Sister Marion Irvine

Gail Waesche Kislevitz's book First Marathons includes the story of how Catholic nun Marion Irvine gave up smoking, lost weight, and and ran her first marathon at age 50, on her way to qualifying for the Olympic trials at the distance in 1983. As Sister Irvine describes it, "There's nothing quite like your first marathon. The adrenaline just flows. With no expectations, I ran pure and simple. Somehow it all just all came together." Looking back on her experience, years later she observes:

... I was sixty-one years old and starting to feel it. I had so many injuries my body didn't know how to recuperate anymore. When the doctors advised six weeks rest, I'd take six days. I ran through injuries, was always battling fatigue and constantly putting my health in jeopardy. There comes a time when you can't cheat your body any longer and I guess I reached that point.

Someone once did a computer analysis of my running times and factored age into the equation. Basically, they were trying to determine just how much better a runner I would have been if I had started in my twenties instead of my fifties. Of course, the computer had me winning every Olympic distance event for the next century! But I never look at my career as starting late and I have never regretted the choices I made in life. If I had started running earlier, chances are I wouldn't be a nun today, and I have never regretted my religious life. My running career came at the perfect time. It was a reawakening for me. I truly believe God created us to be fully alive, to experience life. Prior to running, I wasn't experiencing life, wasn't alive inside. Running gave me that opportunity. It changed my life in ways I never expected. When I'm outside doing a dawn run on the Oregon beaches, I look around and thank our creator for the breathtaking scenery. I've had incredible out-of-body experiences running the Washington Cascades, admiring God's canvas of natural beauty. I've seen bears in the river catching salmon for their lunch, beautiful mountain wildflowers that dazzle the landscape. It gives a new meaning to the word spiritual. I'm not talking about organized religion here, I am describing the spiritual process of getting in touch with one's self, i.e. our spirit, our inner self, our person. You don't have to go to church to experience spirituality. Running can bring you to that place.

I'm a more compassionate person than I was. Prior to running, I had little patience with people's frailties and shortcomings, never having experienced my own physical limitations. But now that I've been battered and bruised and stressed to the test, it's as if I've finally joined the human race, reached a level of humanity where I feel compassion for my fellow person. I know what it's like to suffer and hurt. My life before running was too insular to understand and feel those things. ...

^z - 2012-03-21