Imagine running around the block. To many of us, it sounds tough, sweaty and generally unappealing. It’s hard for a lot of people, but not for the Rev. Nate Rovenstine, pastor at Lawrence Wesleyan Church. He ran around every block and on every street in Lawrence, all the while praying for the community he was running by.
It took Rovenstine all of 2012 to run around Lawrence. He started on Jan. 1 and ended on Dec. 29. He ran 10 to 15 miles every Saturday and three to seven miles during the week. He kept record of his progress by tracing the streets he covered on a map that he pinned up in his church at 3705 Clinton Parkway.
“I told my congregation I was going to do it, so I had this accountability,” Rovenstine said. “Everyone was expecting me to run by their house. That was probably the biggest thing that kept me going.”
The physically toughest part for him was running up the hills at Kansas University. He steered away from a small stretch of road that was protected by a dog. He didn’t miss any other named street on the official city map. He even ran around the cul-de-sacs and in other areas that appeared to be private. He admits he sometimes received strange looks from people.
Lawrence has 392.2 centerline miles of roadway, according to Megan Gilliland, the city’s communications manager. Rovenstine always began his runs at church or at home, so he ran many of the same streets more than once to get to more distant areas of the city.
This feat is nothing compared to running and training for a marathon, Rovenstine said; he has run six marathons in the past eight years.
Rovenstine started running eight years ago with his biggest supporter: his wife, Janet. They were hoping to shed a few pounds, and eventually he made running a habit.
“I tried to be an encouragement to him,” Janet said. “I paid attention to what he was doing and asked him about it to let him know that I do support him.”
His supporters, the community and his spirit kept him dedicated to running the city streets. During his runs, he grew closer to the community and prayed for everyone.
“I just have a burden for our community,” Rovenstine said. “There’s a lot of hurting people. Life is hard for people. Sexual abuse and physical abuse — those kinds of things are happening in our community, and as I was running by, I was thinking about if it was going on right now in these homes and just asking God to help to intervene in those types of situations.”
Sarah Houk, a member of the Lawrence Wesleyan Church, said Rovenstine’s accomplishment was more than physical; it was mental and spiritual.
“It’s obviously very inspiring,” Houk said, “and I have to say, as a member of the church, it’s really neat to be under the leadership of somebody that is personally inspiring. He’s a great role model to have out there considering our current health crisis in our nation.”