Bill Steinburg runs on prayer

By 
  • April 16, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - For former sports journalist Bill Steinburg, the road to the world’s oldest marathon has been paved with grit, discipline and prayers during months of running along Barrie, Ont.’s snow-covered trails.

The Barrie resident qualified for the 113th annual Boston Marathon when he was timed in three hours and 15 minutes in the competition last April.

During his weekly training, which can add up to 110 kilometres or eight hours, Steinburg said he finds some time to pray. The act of running itself, he said, can be a form of prayer.

“We are using the gifts that we have by celebrating the gifts of our bodies and our capabilities,” Steinburg explained.

Running outdoors provides a quiet time and space to have a conversation with God, said the 41-year-old communications manager at the archdiocese of Toronto. And training outdoors can also be a reminder of God’s creation.

“I’ve seen so much wildlife. I’ve seen so many beautiful things through running,” Steinburg said.

“It’s wonderful just to be conscious of the blessings that we have of our bodies and of the world around us, whether it’s nature and the beauty of creation or the products of our own ingenuity like a cityscape.”

A framed picture of a wooden canoe on a calm, pristine lake on Steinburg’s office desk provides a reminder of nature’s beauty.

“If you pause to reflect on that and appreciate it, for me that’s celebration,” Steinburg said, adding that running also provides an opportunity to be thankful to God.

Steinburg grew up in the Niagara region. His parents shared their love of the outdoors with him and his younger brother through boating, camping and skiing. But his father, a teacher, and his mother, a nurse, weren’t into running as a sport. As a student, running became part of Steinburg’s training for other sports like basketball and volleyball.

Later on, he said he developed a passion for running in races and marathons, and enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in nature and with God in prayer.

The Boston Marathon is one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive races and has included numerous Olympic champions. The 42-kilometre marathon takes place on April 20.

During last year’s race, his first, Steinburg said it was an unforgettable experience to compete against close to 22,000 people from around the world, including the top marathon runners.

“It was like a river of runners coursing through a riverbank of people,” he said. “If you look ahead of you, all you saw was people.”

Hundreds of thousands of people usually line the streets each year to cheer on the competitors. Last year, an estimated half a million spectators came to show their support.

Another bonus for this competition, Steinburg said, is that it starts off as an even playing field where all runners, regardless of their level, begin their race alongside the best in the world.

This year, Steinburg will run wearing a friendship bracelet made by his nine-year-old daughter who won’t be able to attend. But Steinburg said he will be thinking of her during his run. And when he gets a chance, she will also be in his prayers.

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