Grateful for a healing miracle

‘Running is a retreat, a place to commune with God and yourself, a place for psychological and spiritual renewal.’ (George Sheehan)

December 1, 2019

In late November 2019, Eunjung and I travelled to our neighborhood island Oahu to participate again in the XTerra Trailrun World Championships in the majestic Kualoa valley. Although named ‘World Championships’, it’s an event open to anyone from experienced runners to beginners. While the best runners ran the half marathon championship course, I participated in the 10 Kilometers category and Eunjung in the 5 Kilometers category.

Ka’a’awa Valley (also known as Kualoa valley) is an area mentioned in many ancient legends. Located on Oahu, the valley was the residence of kings. In ancient Hawaii, newborns of the Ali’i (Hawaiian chiefs) were brought here and trained in their ancient traditions, history and the arts of war. The island’s most famous burial cave for chiefs on Oahu, Pohukaina, is located in the mountains above the valley. The area was considered very sacred and was known as a place of refuge, a Pu’uhonua.

This special area became my place of refuge too. The trails are usually closed to the public. Therefore, the yearly XTerra event offers a rare opportunity for participants to experience the unique beautiful setting which encompasses dense rainforest to broad open valleys, and magical verdant cliff faces. This valley with a rich history also provided the scenic backdrop for numerous films such as Jurassic Park, Godzilla, or most recently 2 years ago Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Before returning to our home island of Kaua’i, Eunjung and I stayed in Colorado for a few weeks. So I was preparing for the race by training at a high altitude of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). Due to the high altitude, I was able to run the entire course without running out of breath only in the last training before we left. Back on Kaua’i, I wanted to train 3 more times to adjust to the tropical climate. Only 4 days before the Xterra race, however, I got injured in my left leg. Because of the pain and tightness on my left calf muscle, it didn’t seem I would be able to run at the race. So instead of training, I focused on praying and healing.

Other than the beautiful scenery and cultural importance of the valley, what makes the Xterra event special is that participants are blessed with a Hawaiian ritual before the race. During this Hawaiian blessing ceremony, fresh Hawaiian water was used to represent rebirth and the Maile lei, the plant, continued growth and prosperity. Surrounded by hundreds of other participants, I prayed from the bottom of my heart that I would be able to run without any pain: ‘Mahalo Ke Akua’, which can be translated as ‘Thanks to the divine spirit’.

I started running when I was 6 with my father who passed away in 2005. Since then I stood on the starting lines of countless running and orienteering events around the world. However, this time in the Ka’a’awa Valley when I started running with the other 350 participants for the 10 Kilometers race, I suddenly felt very emotional and had tears in my eyes, unlike any other previous races in the past. I was overcome by strong feelings that I was not just about to (try to) run for myself, but my father was also joining me in spirit. His presence was felt palpable right next to me.

10 minutes earlier, Eunjung and I watched the elite runners starting off for their half marathon course. We had a brief look at Joseph Gray who already won the 4 previous races right before he took his first steps for the race, and we were impressed by the sheer determination and focus shining through his eyes. When we saw that, we had no doubt he would win this year again. Most of all, his resolution inspired and motivated us for our own races. It was such a powerful reminder that for the success of anything we are embarking upon, determination and focus are essential.

After a few minutes into the race, while running uphill and carefully paying attention to the sensations of the injured part in my leg, I started to realize that my prayers were being answered. With my determination and the support of ‘Ke Akua’, I sensed that I would be able to complete the entire course. When I crossed the finish line as 51st overall and even 3 minutes faster than the last year, I had a huge smile on my face and at the same time could feel the tears in my eyes from deep gratitude.

Warren A. Kay, a cross country coach and theologian, said “The spiritual benefits available in running -appreciating nature, developing a communion with others, seeing how things in the universe connect, meditating – can quiet the mind, facilitate introspection, and help you become more virtuous and whole.’ Indeed, for most of my life, running, orienteering and map-making gifted me with many physical, mental, and emotional benefits, and they also raised my spiritual awareness and connection with nature in so many ways.

When Eunjung and I walked through Honolulu airport to get on our plane back home to Kaua’i, I noticed a beautiful picture of the same valley we were running in. This image had the following quote: ‘Ka Wā Ma Mua, Ka Wā Ma Hope’ meaning ‘Lessons from the past are the key to the future’. Again, I was deeply touched because I realized that I am not only guided by the lessons from my past, but also by those who came before me.

Here in the US, Thanksgiving is being celebrated tomorrow. No matter if you are from the US or not, I encourage you to take some time not only this week but every week to reflect upon things, people (whether they are still alive or passed on) and situations in your life you are grateful for, and also to write them down! As they say: Count your blessings! I am very grateful for this most recent blessing and healing miracle I experienced while running in the Ka’a’awa Valley.

Please leave me a comment below. If you are not on Facebook, click on WordPress to leave a regular comment. I will read and respond to every one. ~Yves Nager

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To live a life on purpose, acknowledge your thoughts andnemotions and redirect them toward your dreams.
~Yves Nager