Run for God group incorporates physical and spiritual aspects into 5k preparation

Sunday, December 2, 2012
Runners training with the Run for God group make a lap around Lynwood Baptist Church on Nov. 19 in Cape Girardeau. (Laura Simon)

Scott McQuay was at a point in his life where he needed to make some choices. He felt he had lost focus. Having a passion for running, the Cape Girardeau man decided he wanted to find a way to combine running and focusing on God.

McQuay was asked in a divorce care class at his church what he always wanted to do. His answer: run a marathon.

With a goal in sight, McQuay knew he couldn't do this on his own. So began his journey searching for Christian running groups that might provide the support he needed.

"While surfing the Internet, looking for Christian running groups, I stumbled upon Run for God," he said.

Founded in 2010 by Mitchell Hollis, of Varnell, Ga., Run For God is a 12-week program that takes beginning runners from running 30 seconds at a time and concludes with a 5 kilometer run.

While the program does address the physical part of running, it also looks at the spiritual component. It's mission statement, according to its website, is "Preparing people to be better witnesses for Christ ... Physically, Mentally, and Spiritually." The program, now offered in 38 states, is based on the second part of Hebrews 12:1: "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

The class meets weekly and consists of 30 minutes of walking and running followed by a Bible study devotional time, looking at lessons of faith and perseverance. There also are two optional group runs during the week.

In April, McQuay started the local group. It originally met at La Croix United Methodist Church, and the first class graduated June 29 when 30 participants, ages 6 to 63, ran in a graduation 5k. There is no specific age to participate in the program.

"If you can walk, you can run and be a part of Run for God," McQuay said.

He said Run for God "helps participants draw on their faith in a supportive environment and achieve a physical milestone they may not have thought possible. The goal is to lead participants to walk, jog or run a 5k in 12 weeks while learning the parallels of this enduring sport and faith."

Having seen the announcement in her church bulletin, Lisa Beckett decided to give the class a try.

"It combined my love of being physical with my love of God," said in June with the class.

Now a part of the second class, Beckett said "it has become very little about the physical and more about the community and commitment to God and the devotionals."

A group of five women from the first class are also participating in the second class, which is being held at Lynwood Baptist. The women have run together three times a week since the first class began.

"The group hasn't quit," participant Erin Gloth said.

Participant Robin Brazel said she now feels compelled to go after initially being hesitant.

"I didn't want to run at first," Brazel said. "I would start, quit, start and quit until I found Run for God. I'm now running with the group three times a week and it has become an 'I need to go' thing. The motivational videos really help."

Kara Hecht said her participation is now more focused on the faith aspect.

"It (being a part of the Run for God group) was so self-centered at first," Hecht said. "Then it became about the Bible devotions."

Cheryl Guetersloh, who never thought she'd be able to run because of an artificial knee, said running "refreshes the body and soul." For her, each step is truly a gift from God.

The second class of "Run for God -- Cape Girardeau" began Sept. 17 at Lynwood Baptist Church and includes about 40 people. The class will conclude its 12 weeks of preparation by running together in the Arthritis Foundation's Jingle Bell Run/Walk on Saturday in Cape Girardeau. The race begins at 9 a.m. at Saint Francis Medical Center's Fitness Plus, 150 South Mount Auburn Road. Registration forms are available at Fitness Plus.

McQuay said there are discussions about what's next for the local Run for God. To learn more about the national organization, visit www.runforgod.com.

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