“A reflection on what running can be for those who have faith or cultivate a spirituality”. This is how Alberto Trevellin describes his Running with God. Reflections on the spirituality of running released by Edizioni Messaggero Padova in July (157 pages, 14 euros). The author, father of two girls, a graduate in religious sciences and a religion teacher, talks to us about what he has “learned and obtained from this ancient and very current activity, in many respects ascetic, spiritual”. An attempt to understand whether running can really be “a form of prayer” bearing in mind that it implies going out rather than, as Christ indicates in the Gospels, “entering one’s room, closing the door and praying in secret” (cf. Matthew 6,6). Those who run long distances know well that the mind becomes a room in which one can experience a state of calm and peace despite the tension of muscles and tendons. In fact “there are rooms – writes Trevellin – which are not those of the house we live in, but which are found within us” and which we can inhabit by discovering new dimensions or restoring order to existential disorder.
In the first chapter, “Running beyond. Running in my life”, the author recounts his running experience. From kindergarten teeming with running children, to the football years with his friend Stefano, to kite racing. To then arrive at the love for running ignited by the opening scene of the film Moments of glorywith the barefoot running of athletes on the beach, and attendance at the Colbalchini stadium managed by Assindustria Sport of Padua.
“I will run for God and for the children of Africa” was one of the first inner impulses of the young Alberto (born in 1988) who began with speed on the track arriving to run the 100m dash in 11”17 in 2005, the 200m in 22”12 and 400 in 48”74 in 2007. After the frustrations of several injuries, Alberto decides to devote himself to sports that have the mountain as their common denominator: trekking, classic mountaineering, free climbing… (a previous book of his is The way of the mountain, 2018). To then return, after several years, to her beloved race, this time on the banks of the Brenta near Limena, the town on the northern outskirts of Padua where she lives. So running had a real evolution in Trevellin’s life like his faith, with his conversion in 2005 and the reading of spiritual classics such as the Philokalia hey Tales of a Russian Pilgrim.
The biblical aspects of running are dealt with in the second chapter of the book: “Running towards God, running towards man”. Several passages of the biblical text are mentioned that have running as a background, also pausing on the texts contained in the letters of St. Paul in which reference is made to practicing sport in the stadium. A specific study is proposed by the author on the passages of the Gospels which speak of the Easter morning races (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24 and John 20). “We can affirm that in some New Testament verses – writes Trevellin – running properly represents a unitive means, something that unites with God and is driven by joy”.
The third chapter, “God’s Athlete,” discusses the spiritual aspects of running. Running is a form of asceticism that illuminates the fatigue of training and competitions and allows you to relate to the limit. “Every runner is already an ascetic in the simplest form in which we can understand this word – says the author – because through physical exercise he seeks perfection and constant improvement”. Solitude and silence are other dimensions explored in this section of the book, as well as the “spiritual therapy” of the race against the vices of sloth, gluttony and pride.
Could running be understood as a sort of spiritual retreat? The answer is positive also considering the values of poverty and gratuitousness implied in this specific sporting discipline.
The book closes with a chapter on “Propositions and Prayers for God’s Athlete”. Consistency is emphasized as an ingredient both for achieving good sporting results and for the Christian life. The author also proposes some opportune clarifications such as this: “For running to be effectively called prayer, it must be grafted into an active life of faith that takes into consideration the sacramental experience”. As a starting point and suggestion, Trevellin offers a concrete example of how to experience prayer before, during and after a run.
The preface by Don Marco Pozza, marathon runner and chaplain at the “Due Palazzi” prison in Padua and a good bibliography are the setting for “Running with God”. Perhaps one of the merits of this book lies in the fact that one can easily review oneself in the various running and spiritual experiences of the author.