The first time I went running I managed 30 seconds before dropping to my knees and begging for mercy. The second time I started crying.

The third time I think I uttered more expletives in half an hour than the rest of my life put together. In a fit of wild optimism my (equally unfit) friend and I had made a pact that we would run a 10km race for charity, only to be knocked sideways by the horrific reality of actually training for it.

We were totally rubbish. Everything hurt and being able to run even for a few minutes, never mind the full hour we would need for the 10km, seemed like an impossible dream. Every single morning that we went, it was a battle.

But of course we persevered. And, over the next few months, we made incremental improvements, adding a minute a week on to the distance we could run. When it came to the race, crossing the finish line and feeling that rush of adrenaline was easily the proudest moment of my life so far.

The whole experience taught me a few things: running is for anyone, not just the people who were good at sport at school, having a buddy to do it with makes it do-able, and it hurts, but it really is worth the pain.

You can apply all these lessons to your spiritual life. Whether in the context of studying theology or finding a Lent, discipline I pray that you find ways of drawing nearer to God which take a bit of effort and discipline, but through which you are richly rewarded.

Thanks to everyone who wrote in in response to Peter Oborne’s comment piece in the January issue. Contrary to what some of the correspondence suggests, we are not party political at Christianity (we’ve been accused of being too left wing as well as too right wing in the past, which means we must be doing something right) but we do believe in debate. I hope you enjoy this month’s contributions Rev George Pitcher former religion editor at The Daily Telegraph, and Rev Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, director of the Contextual Theology Centre. As always, keep the letters coming, and I’ll keep aiming to commission pieces which provoke a discussion.

And finally, not to be outdone by Youthwork magazine, who have been doing this for over a year, we have finally got round to launching a Christianity magazine podcast. The very first one, featuring our columnist Steve Chalke, and presented by myself and our culture writer Martin Saunders, will be available to download from iTunes from the middle of January.