Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Praying on the Run

Praying on the Run
by Greg Asimakoupoulos

Although she lives near the top of the world (in Alaska) and her surname suggests a famous family tie, Eleanor Claus isn't related to Santa. And this lively seventy-year-old isn't your typical grandma, either.

In October 2004 Eleanor ran the Chicago Marathon. She completed the 26.2-mile course in 4 hours and 48 minutes, finishing first in her age division. To date she has run twenty-three marathons.

'When my daughters were teenagers, they talked me into running a 10k women's race with them,' Eleanor recalls. 'I felt so good about it, and about being able to do something with them that they enjoyed, that I decided to continue.' She soon discovered that daily workouts provided her a context to focus on what was in her heart. 'It dawned on me that my daily runs were a perfect opportunity to talk to the Lord,' Eleanor says. 'I started using the alphabet as a guide as I prayed on the run. Starting with the letter A, I'd celebrate the attributes of God: awesome, blessed, compassionate. . . .'

Eleanor also uses the alphabet to pray for people. 'Over the years I have compiled a prayer list of family, friends, and those with special needs who've crossed my path,' she says. 'During marathons, it's kind of cool. Since there are 26 miles and 26 letters, I can spend more time praying for each individual and family than I normally do. It also helps the time go faster.'

For Eleanor, the regimen of running has become a metaphor for her walk with the Lord. Hebrews 12:1–3 is not just a wall-plaque Scripture to her. As she runs and prays, she recognizes the importance of looking to the Lord amid life's challenges.

'It takes a lot of hard work and months of preparation to train for a marathon,' Eleanor says. 'That also is a picture of what's involved in running the marathon of faith.'

The fascination with long-distance adventure must run in the Claus family. Last year, at age 18, Eleanor's granddaughter and namesake, Ellie, became the youngest musher to compete in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. At 1,151 miles, that’s a lot of time for praying!

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