Alison Marie Smith

Life, Leadership & Spiritual Formation in Lonely Places

National Running Day: 5ks & Discipleship

National Running Day

I had no idea there was a National Running Day until a few days ago. Of course, this isn’t that surprising considering there is a National Hot Dog Day, National Argyle Day, and National Be Bald and Free Day. Today, I plan to run a couple of miles and track it through the app Charity Miles– basically by running, I get to give to a charity without opening my wallet. Check it out! I’m running for Girls on the Run. In honor of this day, here is a story from my first 5k.

Two years ago I signed up and started training for my first 5k. I work as a college minister with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Utah so I picked the Homecoming 5k as a way to support the university. Plus, some of my students said they would run with me. This was my first race, unless you count the Teddy Bear Trot (I think it was .25 miles?) I did in the 1st grade.

As I shared in a previous blog, I used a program for beginners that slowly added running time each week. By the end of the program, I had run 2 miles with a few weeks to spare before the 5k. But breaking the 2 mile distance was a struggle for me and I was getting a little anxious.

A female student of mine, who ran cross-country in high school, invited me to run with her several times before the race. We met early one morning at Liberty Park in SLC. As we ran together, the conversation flowed easily. We caught up on life, classes and, of course, dating. Then we started talking about the deeper things that were relevant to her. She was nervous about starting up the Bible study in her sorority again. Her and a sister were having conflict. She wanted to know God more deeply but didn’t know where to start. Midway through our run, I realized that we were having an impromptu discipleship meeting.

Recently, InterVarsity has been experimenting with new ways to approach discipling students. If you’re not familiar with discipleship, it tends to look like 1-on-1 or smaller group meetings where the IV staff worker helps students learn how to follow Jesus. These meetings typically consist of prayer, Bible study, and maybe some kind of training component to build leadership skills.

But sometimes discipleship can turn into “counseling” appointments set in a coffee shop. InterVarsity staff wear many hats, attempting to be a therapist should not be one of them. While building relationships is key in discipleship, if there is no real life application and no call to action, discipleship can become stagnant and ineffective.

During the run, my student and I were meeting for discipleship in an unplanned yet effective way. Toward the end of the run, she and I talked about what it could look like to incorporate spiritual disciplines during her semester. We talked about ideas for her sorority Bible study. And we did some debriefing on her dating life (dating is one of my favorite topics to talk about with students, ahhh the awkwardness of being a 20-year-old college student). My student had a clear idea of what her next steps would be and how to act on them.

My students and I at the finish!

My students and I at the finish!

Our discipleship run was meaningful and deep yet practical and applicable. And before I knew it , we had run 2.5 miles, I was over the 2 mile hump!

A couple of weeks later my students and I ran the 2012 Homecoming 5k. It was fantastic. As I shared in my previous post, running has been a gift to me. God has used it in many ways to teach me important truths about myself, others, and him. Running is now an important connection that I share with my student and we have had several impromptu discipleship meetings because of it.

Now I’m ready to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. Cheers to #runningday!

Do you have experience in mentoring or discipling people? If so, share your experience below.

For more information on InterVarsity’s discipleship practices, check out these links:

InterVarsity’s Discipleship Cycle

Article Explaining InterVarsity’s Approach to Discipleship


1 Comment

  1. Teddy Bear Trot – HOW CUTE!!
    What a great first race experience. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

© 2018 Alison Marie Smith

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: