\ La Vida's Run Dedication and the Power of Prayer - La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership

At the end of every La Vida Adirondack Expedition, participants are driven 8.6 miles away from base camp and challenged to run, safely and at their own pace, back to camp before packing up gear and loading up the vans for their return home. For many participants, including myself, this was a daunting proposition. For some, it may be the scariest part of the whole expedition. However, it serves as a final challenge to allow students to push themselves, physically and mentally, through one last stretch of traversing. It is an exercise in applying learned behaviors and mental habits from their trip to life at home.

There is nothing quite like running or walking up that final stretch of road and seeing the large “La Vida” sign within view. At that point, participants are often overcome with a mix of pride, excitement, and gratitude. As a staff member, watching students arrive at that point means so much, especially knowing how hard it might be for some. But what is not so frequently talked about is the opportunity that La Vida provides to dedicate those 8.6 miles—every step that is taken and every thought that crosses each runner’s mind—to a person, an idea, or a thing. Before the group is given introductory instructions, trip leaders offer students masking tape and Sharpies with the direction, if they wish, to dedicate their run to someone or something that is on their heart.

After three expeditions, I have come to appreciate the power that lies in orienting your mind toward one thing for the duration of the run. It helps with endurance, and it is a beautiful opportunity for conversation with God. As a participant, I was injured and walked part of the way, and as a leader, I enjoyed sticking with those who might need some encouragement in the back of the group. That being said, I have had quite some time during these three runs to talk to God and lift people up in prayer. For each of these runs, I chose a different person to whom I would dedicate my time, thoughts, prayers, and energy. In all three cases, these were family members who were enduring mental, physical, relational and/or spiritual hardship for a while and whose situations I personally did not have the ability to change. With every step, I surrendered these situations to God and cried out to Him for healing and revival. Sometimes this was vocalized and other times it was internal, but it was always prayed in faith that, as the Psalmist writes, “my cry to Him reached His ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

As a testimony to the power of those prayers and the opportunity provided by La Vida’s final run, I can confidently say that God was listening, and He has been answering each prayer all along. Two years ago, when I dedicated my run to a cousin, I had no idea that her struggle with disordered eating had nearly hospitalized her in the twelve days that I had been gone, but I lifted what I knew of her situation up to God in prayer. Now, she is doing well in recovery and enjoying small things in life that she had once lost sight of. Last summer, my first run was dedicated to a grandfather who was rapidly losing strength in a long battle with cancer and who had not seen any of his family for years for fear of getting sick. This year, he is still battling cancer in a progressing form but is now allowing family to visit, and it is a true blessing to see God meet that need for reconciliation among my loved ones. In my final run so far, I prayed for an uncle—an uncle who was local yet estranged, within reach and yet so very lost in the ways of the world. I prayed for his salvation, his rehabilitation, and for God to reconcile him to the family. Just a few weeks ago, upon my return from a month away from home, I looked down my family’s pew at church to see him standing in worship. Though things are not perfect, it is abundantly clear that God has heard these prayers and is working even when I cannot see it, making a way in each of these situations where I could not see one.

It is with gratitude that I now think back to those miles spent in surrender, praying for God to work in these hearts and bodies that I so dearly loved. La Vida’s final run has repeatedly provided a means by which I might learn what it looks like to orient my thoughts to the One who hears our prayers, and in the years following, I have been able to see God working around me so very clearly.

Article by Evelyn Murphy ’25

The run has been a part of La Vida Expeditions from the program’s inception. Before we had the base camp property, Celebration was held at South Meadows. Everyone camped overnight together under multiple large tarps. The next morning the group would run the first 14 miles home and get picked up at Cascade Lakes. The run was designed as one last intentional time to focus on what participants were bringing home with them and to approach that transition with excitement and anticipation. Now that we have the base camp property the logistics have changed. We’ve shortened the run, and instead of running home, participants are running back to property, but it still holds the same meaning now as it did in the 70’s.