Running with God
My dream to compete in the Olympics began in eighth grade, when one day I set out on a 15-mile run around the lake in my hometown. I’ve been running in pursuit of my dream ever since.
In 2000, I watched the Olympic trials and vowed that in 2004 I’d be back and make the Olympic team. I was so passionate about my dream that I started a countdown: 1,100 days before the beginning of the 2004 Olympics. I devoted my life to the goal; I trained harder than ever and lived a disciplined life. Every day I got up and took a day off my makeshift countdown to the Olympics.
I’ll never forget the 2004 Olympic trials. My little brother and I ended up camping out in my parents’ old van down by the Sacramento River, surviving off tortillas and hot sauce. Needless to say, I wasn’t competing; I was injured, out of shape and frustrated with life. I wanted to go to the Olympics so badly and worked so hard toward my goal, yet it didn’t matter. Despite all my efforts, here I was four years later watching others live my dream.
It was a devastating time in my life, but God used it to teach me some important lessons. He taught me that running had become my god. Even though I knew Jesus, I wasn’t looking to Him for the satisfaction I was so desperately seeking. My sense of worth and my joy was totally dependent on how well I was running.
The result of having running as my god was frustration, worry, depression, and discontentment with life. I never found the satisfaction I was looking for, even though I was leading what most people would call a successful life. I was going to one of the best schools in the country, I’d been a part of two NCAA Division I championship cross-country teams, I’d just finished second at that year’s cross-country nationals, and to top it all off I had an awesome girlfriend who was supporting me through it all. Yet I had become like the rich man that when asked how much money was enough replied, “Just a little more.” Jesus said “For what does a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?" I found this verse to be very true in my own life.
It isn’t the records or championships or medals that make life fulfilling, it’s the life of following Christ. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) When I’m following Christ closely, there’s a contentment and satisfaction in my life that is far greater and longer-enduring than any good race I’ve ever run. I’m convinced that the good life is the life of discipline following hard after Christ.
Now as I prepare for my first [Olympics], I feel God calling me to run free. To run free from having to make the team, free from the worries of needing to prove myself, free from the riches of this world, free to run with a heart full of passion and praise for God, free to pour myself out for Him, not for me. One of the reasons I enjoy working out on my own is because it’s easier for me to simply praise God with my body as I run. When I’m out here running with the spirit of worship, there’s nothing like it because of my connection with God. I like to refer to this road as my sanctuary because some of my most intimate moments with God have been out here on this road.
Having God’s power, self-belief and determination coupled with hard work doesn’t mean that all of us can be the best in the world. There’s only one person who can say they are the best in the world, and they can only boast of this for a short time. So what does this mean for the rest of us who believe and strive to be the best in the world and yet we fall short of our goal? If we can’t accomplish our goals, does this make us all failures? Are ninety-nine percent of the people out there wasting their lives because they never made it to the top? Of course not! The hope I want to encourage you with is that we all can run with Him and experience the joy that is more fulfilling than any performance or accomplishment we can dream of. We can all have the satisfying abundant life that God has promised us.
This is my vision for [the Olympics]: that everything would fade away—all the accolades and rewards, and everything that is at stake—and in my mind’s eye it will be just me out there running with my God, praising Him in my sanctuary. If I can praise God with all my body, mind and soul [at the Olympics], then I’ll walk away form the finish line satisfied, no matter what the outcome, and that will be a satisfaction that no one can take away from me.