Michael Foley runs a spiritual marathon

GREENVILLE — When Michael P. Foley agreed to substitute for his ailing father at adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the first Friday in November, he had no idea that it would grow into what his family now calls a “spiritual marathon.”

“I usually run the Thanksgiving Day Marathon in Atlanta, so at first I thought that I would dedicate the race to my dad, who had been diagnosed with cancer,” said Foley, a parishioner at St. Mary in downtown Greenville.

Then, as he prayed through the 3-4 a.m. vigil with his father-in-law, his father’s usual partner at adoration, he was inspired to expand his vision.

“He decided to run each mile of the marathon for a special intention,” said his 14-year-old daughter Lindsey. “So he sent out an e-mail to family and friends, and received 25 other prayer requests.”

When Foley began running the 26.2-mile event in the rain on the holiday morning, he carried with him a laminated card made by his wife, Frances, listing the intention for each mile.

As he ran past every mile marker along the city course, he read a new intention and offered up the next mile for it. Meanwhile, he also sent the prayer requests to his original e-mail list, asking the recipients to tape the list to their oven doors.

“That way, every time the people checked on their roasting turkey, they would pray for the same intentions as my dad was praying for as he ran. It was pretty cool,” Lindsey said.

The response to his effort was pretty cool, also. Foley said people called and e-mailed him with answers to their prayers, including his own father, who is in remission. Word spread and many others asked to be placed on the intention list for 2008.

“At this rate, I may have to start running ultra-marathons, which are 100 miles,” he joked.

Frances said she and others on the list still have the marathon intentions taped to their oven doors. She thought it was amazing that her husband came up with the idea of a spiritual marathon all by himself and that it was so successful.  

And daughter Lindsey may be following in her father’s footsteps. She runs junior varsity cross-country at St. Joseph’s Catholic School and organized a running camp for children at Prince of Peace Church in Taylors last summer.

The eighth-grader said she even prays when she runs the 3.1-mile events — although her prayer request is somewhat different than her father’s were in his marathon.

“I pray during the meets, ‘God, please help me finish this race,’ ” Lindsey said.