Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?

My denomination is Episcopalian. My faith is Christian. That's what this book is all about --trying to figure out how to use the torment of distance running to come closer to God. With physical exertion, your body rebels, so in order to keep your mind occupied from condemning you for what you're doing to your body, you have to focus on something else. Increasingly in my many, many years of running, my thoughts became focused on God. What do I really know about God? What do I believe about him? Why do I believe that?

What were some of the conclusions you came to while running?

Three basic messages. One is God loves everyone to a depth and breadth and scope that we can scarcely imagine, and that love is so pervasive in our lives that we really have to fight to resist it. Second point is that a piece of the Holy Spirit -- a piece of God --is within all of us. The more we are able to understand and live our lives according to what that Holy Spirit tells us to do, the more joyous we become. The third point is that God has a wonderful sense of humor. So I think if you roll all those things together, you find that God has given us a truly remarkable gift in this universe, in this life, and all he asks in return is we find joy in him. In the end, God takes us all into heaven. God accepts all of us, even those of us who have been wretched in this life. He gives us all retroactive grace, and when we accept it, we pop! We pop into heaven.

You use the phrase "liberated from intellectual shackles" to describe your journey away from more orthodox Christianity. Can you describe that process?

It's liberating because I'm not a philosopher, and I'm not a theologian, so I'm not narrowed by the kinds of structure they are. While in Germany running, I got on the subject of the Second Coming. I visualized that from Revelation, from things Jesus said in the Gospels, as a huge cataclysmic event, with fireballs and lightning and great winds going back and forth. But what if that's not what it's all about? What if the Second Coming is very personal, to me, and to you and to me? And it comes to us in this popping moment: "Ah, I get it now."

At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?

The infinite, imperishable love of God for each and every one of us and for all the sentient species he's created in this universe. I believe that when we couldn't get it straight, that he manifest himself in a form that we could understand. Jesus taught us how simple it is to live a joyous, celebratory life. - Liz Essley

- Liz Essley