by Marc and Julie Anderson
Leawood — Mark Walsh, a parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel Parish here, finds life keeps him running.
In fact, sometimes in a single week, he’ll run in California, Texas and Ohio.
The physical benefits of running are obvious. But for Walsh, running has provided him with something he said is far more important — a form of prayer.
A cradle Catholic, Walsh said he spent his formative years in Catholic schools in Iowa. He and his wife sent their four children to Catholic schools as well. Yet, somewhere on life’s road, he just stopped educating himself on the Catholic faith.
On the outside, Walsh said his life seemed to be perfect. He had money, a good job, a good home, a loving wife and family.
“My life would have looked to be, on the outside, as perfect as it could be,” he said.
In reality, though, he was miserable . . . until about two years ago when he changed jobs. But that’s not all he changed.
“I changed everything,” he said. He quit drinking and quickly dropped 30 pounds.
“The biggest thing I changed, though, was I started praying every day,” said Walsh.
“Prayer became the cornerstone of my life,” he added.
He started slowly. Before his morning run, he’d spend 30 minutes in prayer and reflection, mostly reading the Bible and then a reflection by a Franciscan priest.
Then, at a Christ Renews His Parish retreat, “we were challenged to pray for an hour every morning,” said Walsh.
But where would he find the time? Between time already spent in prayer, his morning run of anywhere between three to five miles, his job and his family life, he was literally “running out of time” in his day.
Then, it hit him. He could pray while running and contemplate God’s creation at the same time.
So, he bought a rosary ring and started praying the rosary on his morning run.
“I loved it,” he said. “I realized I don’t have to quit.”
Now, he starts his morning as usual with 30 minutes of prayer before running. And he’s gradually used his iPhone to add other spiritual listening to his running experience.
But he does not neglect the rosary. And on his long run, usually reserved for Sunday mornings, Walsh spends the last few miles in silence, just being with God and nature.
“My running becomes the extension of my prayer,” he said.