My cousin once asked me what I think about during long runs. Those are the words he used, but his tone and facial expression implied something more like, "You're insane to go on long runs. Don't you get bored out of your mind? What on earth can a person think about to keep herself entertained for hours on end?"
I'm one of those people who can never think of a good answer when I'm asked a question; it's usually when I'm in the car driving home an hour later that I realize what I should have said. This conversation was no exception. At the time, all I could think to say was that I enjoy the time to think, and that it usually isn't boring at all.
What I should have said was that one thing I really enjoy doing while running is praying the Rosary. During a road marathon, I find that I can say 5 Rosaries and 5 Divine Mercy Chaplets and still have time to sing along to "Call Me Maybe" on repeat several times. (Yes, by the end of a marathon I lose any sense of self-consciousness and am perfectly happy singing out loud to music no one else can hear.)
I've heard non-Catholics question the practice of saying the Rosary, because to them it seems like rote, repetitive prayers -- just meaningless words said over and over again. But in reality, the Rosary is a powerful way to meditate on Christ; in fact, in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote that the Rosary "has all the depth of the Gospel message in its entirety." This meditation is perfect for a runner; as I reflect on the Sorrowful Mysteries, for example, Jesus' agony in the garden, it sure puts my little pains and feelings of exhaustion in perspective. Reflecting on Jesus carrying the cross, I can find strength and endurance to finish my race. Thinking about how Mary interceded on behalf of the newlyweds at the wedding at Cana, I am reminded that I can ask Mary and the saints to intercede on my behalf as well. And contemplating Jesus' great love for me, shown by coming to earth in his Nativity, I ask Him to help me love Him more with every footstep.
While my dad uses a finger Rosary during his runs, I like to have my hands free. I don't trust myself not to drop things when I'm running. But I figure that since God gave us 10 fingers, I should put them to good use keeping track of my Hail Mary's, while I put my feet to good use, shuffling towards that finish line.
"To recite the Rosary is nothing other than to contemplate with Mary the face of Christ." -- Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae