Bible Reading the Runners Way

Almost at the finish line!
For almost two years now I’ve been a “runner”. It’s a great pastime for me. A time of recreation and contemplation, but also a physical challenge that I really enjoy. This year I completed my first marathon. There’s much more to a marathon than just turning up at the start line on the day and running 42.195km to cross the finish line. A lot of training is required in order to achieve that feat.

Most marathon training plans include at least four types of training runs, each with their own purpose. The first is broadly categorised as “speed” work. This can take the form of intervals, fartleks (Yes, it’s a real term. Look it up), hill repeats, and many other variations in between. The purpose of this training run is to increase your pace. They tend to be shorter overall, but intense effort throughout.

The second type of training run is a “tempo” run. You run this at a “comfortably hard” pace. This run helps combine the speed you’re developing in your speed work with the endurance you’re developing in your long runs. These training runs help you develop the body’s ability run faster, for longer.

The third type of training run is the staple of any marathon training plan; the “long slow run”. This is run at a pace about 30-45 seconds slower (per km) than your marathon pace and over ever-increasing distances; up to 32-35km. These runs help build endurance.

Finally, the fourth type of training run is an “easy” run. The name says it all. This run is for recovery, and indeed even just for enjoyment. You can get caught up in the purpose of different runs and forget that overall runners run because we like it. The easy run helps the body recover in time for the next intense training session. It can be helpful to substitute some other form of cross-training (bike, swim etc.) to replace this run to add variation into your training plan.

Over the course of a week an effective plan will include these four types of runs plus include rest days as well.

At some point, probably on one of my long slow runs, I wondered where else this kind of plan might be helpful. I considered personal Bible reading and came up with a similar plan. I’m not a big fan of doing the same thing every day when it comes to personal Bible reading. It’s just not my personality, so I came up with this plan to help in my relationship with God.

  1. “Speed” read. This is reading, re-reading and memorising short passages of Scripture. Single verses or up to a paragraph at the most. Saying it out loud, praying it out loud, with the purpose of committing it to memory. The purpose here is to get Scripture into your heart, head and memory so you can recall it throughout the day.
  2. “Tempo” read. This is reading a longer passage of Scripture without necessarily studying it in great detail. Read a chapter or two at a time and don’t stop to do word studies or look up commentaries. The purpose here is to get the “feel” of Scripture. To absorb the overall picture, to catch the story, to connect some of the dots that often we get stuck on. Read at a steady pace.
  3. “Long slow” read. Here you spend significant time reading and studying intensely a given section of Scripture. The length of Scripture is not so important as the time spent diving into it. It’s appropriate to use commentaries and the like to help you here, but also to just spend time praying over or pondering particular phrases or words. I would recommend choosing a particular book and reading through it over the course of several weeks and even months. This year I did this with Luke and it was incredible what God revealed to me through this experience.
  4. “Easy” read. This is just reading the Bible because it’s good for Christians to do that. No agenda, no plan, no limits. Just enjoy it. You can even “cross-train” on these days. Incorporate some other forms of worship; listen to music, write a poem, paint a picture, go outside and enjoy creation. Anything really. The purpose here is to remind you that reading the Bible isn’t about getting to the end of the book and saying “well I read that book… where’s another like it”. We read this particular book because it is about relationship with God. God has communicated to his people through these texts over thousands of years and we get to join in that conversation. What a privilege! The “easy” read is a reminder of that.
You can spread these different “reads” throughout the course of your week and intersperse them with “rest” days. I’m not a fan of the guilty feeling that comes with unnecessary pressure some place on themselves to read Scripture every day. I’m certainly not against reading every day, but taking away that pressure has meant that if I miss a day I’m you’re more likely to pick up the next day where you left off. This is a personality thing most likely for me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

I offer this as a suggestion that may help others. I’d be interested to hear if you find this kind of reading plan helpful. 

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