As I wrote in my January column for The Catholic Post, I truly enjoyed Jeff Grabosky’s memoir Running With God Across America. And since I became a LIFE Runner myself last year when I ran my second marathon in St. Louis (read about that experience here and here), we are sort of “teammates.” So grateful to Jeff for being willing to do this Q&A.
Q. Jeff, tell me a little more about yourself, your writing and your running–what you are currently doing.
I have always been a runner and have always loved my faith. I ran my first marathon in college and also received a supplementary degree in Theology while studying at Notre Dame. After graduating and dealing with personal tragedy, I continued running marathons and 100-mile races. My run across America was a way in which God called me to use my passions to bring the message about the power of prayer to others. It was difficult to leave my family, friends, and job to undertake the journey, but I felt an unmistakable call to run for the prayers of others.
After the run was over, I worked with 3rd graders at a Catholic school in Phoenix for a year. While there, I also worked part time at a running specialty store and spent my free time writing the book. I then moved back to Northern Virginia to be near family, where I now working at my previous job as store manager of a specialty running store and also coach runners. Periodically, I give talks about the power of prayer and appear at book signings. I have been so blessed and recently got engaged to a beautiful and holy woman named Mary.
I’m also the race director for the Cross Country Relay for Life, which will correspond with the 40 Days for Life (February 13 to March 24). We are currently filling 5K segments for the relay, and encourage pro-life groups to sign up. Visit the LIFE Runners Relay for Life page for more information about that.
Q. I was really impressed with the quality of your writing and narrative in Running with God Across America . Since you self-published, I am curious what kind of editing help you had. Have you always considered yourself a good writer, or was this a unique experience to share?
Whenever I would give a talk about my run across America, the first question people always asked me was when the book was coming out. I have never been a big writer, but settled into the project and approached it with the same persistence I do with anything I go after. I must have read through it a dozen times to get it as accurate and readable as possible. I had it read over for spelling and grammar, but that was it. My goal was to tell a simple story and bring people with me on the journey. I wanted the reader to feel what I was feeling at the time and to realize the power of prayer and to hopefully develop a deeper relationship and belief in God in the process.
Q. As I wrote in my review, I found myself envious of two aspects of your run; one pretty serious and one kind of funny.
First, you had so much personal time and space for prayer, and for running, of course. This time and space helped you have a lot of spiritual and emotional breakthroughs. Do you miss that aspect of the run, and how have you tried to bring that spirit into your daily life now?
I found that on my journey, the further I stepped back from daily life, the more I was able to concentrate on prayer and on the Lord. Spending so much time each day lost in prayer was an incredible experience that solidified my relationship with Him, especially in the midst of great discomfort. Now that I am back in a much more normal daily routine, I find myself truly missing that time alone with God. In order to incorporate prayer more into my life, I have since started praying the rosary daily. I love searching out new prayers and devotions. I try to go to confession and adoration more often. Essentially, I came to realize just how much I need the Lord in my life and it is my desire to get as close to Him as possible.
Q. The other aspect I envied was the sheer amount of food you needed to eat to keep up your weight! I know how good food tastes after a long run or lots of exertion, and so you descriptions of some of your more memorable meals stuck with me. Did you enjoy that aspect either during the run or in your writing? Do you miss that now that you are living a more normal day-to-day life?
The amount of food I ate during my journey always makes for good stories. People were always shocked at how much I consumed and how quickly I made the food disappear. For the first part of my run, I really looked forward to dinner because it seemed to be the one comfort of the day. Sitting down and eating a good meal always sounded so incredible when I was out on the road and I could not wait for that moment. What I learned was that it was just that – a moment. The moment of enjoyment from dinner was so fleeting and it only sustained me for a very short time. I learned a lesson through that experience of just how fleeting the pleasures of this world really are. It made me focus more on Christ, because He is the only one who will sustain us forever. He will never abandon us or let us down. The experience only helped to deepen my desire for Christ in my life.
Q. You are a Notre Dame grad, and you ran through campus on the run. What kind of reaction have you had from the Notre Dame community about your run and its goals?
I’ll never forget how the weather was cold and the skies were overcast as I approached the campus of Notre Dame. Just before the Golden Dome came into view, the skies opened and the sun shone down. When I caught site of campus, the dome was glistening and my aches seemed to melt away. It was essentially a 500 mile detour to run through there, but it was well worth it. I loved seeing some of my old roommates still in the area and praying at the Grotto. It was a wonderful experience and the reaction from the Notre Dame community was fantastic. I’ve been told by the Notre Dame community that my journey embodied the Catholic identity Notre Dame was meant to have. The important messages of focusing on prayer, giving glory to the Lord, and encouraging a devotion to the Blessed Mother is something inherent to Notre Dame. I am honored that the run across America for prayer can be associated with my school and I hope it makes the community of Notre Dame proud.
Q. You wrote at the end of Running with God that you don’t run long distances any longer. Any plans for a long-distance run in future years?
Since finishing my run across the country, I have very little motivation or desire to compete in long distance races. In the past year I have run a marathon for fun, paced a friend through 25 miles of an ultra marathon, put in a 100 mile week, and gone out for a 30 mile run on my own. Despite these runs, the amount I have been running has decreased significantly. However, I find my passion for the sport has not diminished, but has been redirected. Through multiple coaching programs at the store I work at, I have been able to help others train for distance races and become more fit. The satisfaction I have in hearing about others finishing races is much greater than any pride I would have from completing a race of my own. I am honored to have the opportunity to help others reach their goals and I hope it is something that I can continue to do in the future.
Q. You are a LIFE Runner, and I just joined the group in to run my second marathon as a LIFE Runner. Tell me about how you got involved with the group and what you are doing with them now.
If the wheel on my stroller had not broken in St. Louis, then I may not have become involved with the LIFE Runners. It essentially opened up a window of time where I met Pat Castle for breakfast in Alton, IL. He got me involved with the LIFE Runners as our missions were very much aligned. I am so excited to use my passion for running to help the Pro Life cause. We have a very exciting relay planned that goes over 4,000 miles across the country. I am the race director of the relay and also of the 5K we are holding in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, DC. The LIFE Runners do so much for the unborn and also to assist the mothers and children who choose life. I am truly honored to work with such great people and for the cause of protecting the right to life for the most innocent of us.
Q. Any plans for future books?
As of now, I do not have any specific plans for another book. However, I know God works in amazing ways and if I find myself called to something that warrants another book I will gladly oblige.
Q. Is there anything you would like to add or wish I would have asked?
I would just like to add that I am no superstar runner or extraordinary human. The only thing I did was say “yes” to the calling the Lord placed on my heart. He met me where I was at and took care of the rest. Things were not always easy, but I have realized just how beautiful a picture the Lord can paint with our lives if we allow him to use us. Ever since I placed myself in God’s will for His glory, my life has taken on a completely different direction. My life has certainly been difficult and even painful at times, but it has developed into something bigger than I could have ever dreamed of on my own. I will continue to put my trust in the Lord and follow wherever he calls me to go. I am just hoping it does not involve another run across America!