Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Deacon Tim Dooley heads out for a run during break time at work.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Ed Langlois
Deacon Tim Dooley heads out for a run during break time at work.
Deacon Tim Dooley once ran 50-mile ultra marathons. Now, after two surgeries to repair a defective heart valve, he’s off marathons — ultra or otherwise.

But he still runs five days a week and is preparing for the summer Mount Hood to Coast Relay, a long tradition among family and friends.

Running, and almost dying because of heart problems, caused him to reflect on the human body and the spirit.

“Exercise can be such a release. Get rid of the bad stuff, the stress we carry, and make room for the good stuff — openness to God and to each other,” says Dooley, who serves as deacon at Holy Family Parish in Southeast Portland.

He now appreciates just being able to run at all, even if he’s slower than he once was.

He played team sports in high school and took up running in college at University of Oregon. Except when his doctor told him not to, he has been running most days for 37 years.

On his days to hit the road, he doesn’t always feel like it. But he’s always glad he did. For him, matters physical and spiritual are woven.

After a workout, he’s more receptive to people and to God’s presence in the world. He enjoys communing with nature and praying while he runs.

Dooley regularly visits hospital patients and homebound parishioners, and they have taught him something about physical well-being — it’s a matter of appreciating what we can do as God’s pure gift, even if it’s simply using a walker to get from the bed to the window.

“We do what we can,” he says. “Whatever our race, no matter how long or short, we can get to the finish line. We’re going the distance together.”