If you've ever spent some time with track and field athletes, you will quickly realize that so many of them have something in common other than the team they are on or the sport they compete in, but also a faith in God. I'm sure if you've watched the post race interviews, almost every runner will give thanks and or praise to God. As a believer in God myself, I have found myself keeping a tradition of getting alone moments before a race and praying to God. My prayer has always consisted of giving God thanks for the ability to run and compete. Also asking Him to keep me and everyone on the course safe. I make sure to ask Him to help me be humble during the race and be a good example. During my 5 full marathons and 1 ultra marathon, I definitely had moments where I quietly conversed with Him. At every finish line I have made sure to give Him thanks for getting me there safely.
What I wanted to share within this blog is some of the conversations I've had with some other runners of all distances. I interviewed Khamica Bingham, Chanelle Price, Michelle Yates, Dominique Booker and T'erea Brown. These 5, like many of the others, can be seen giving God glory not just on the biggest stages being filmed and broadcasted live but also during the less viewed times like small events or on their personal social media pages. We all have different opinions on God, but you have to admit that a majority of running athletes believe in Him and that He helps them in many ways during their training and preparation as well as during competitions. This blog will dive a little deeper into some of their experiences and thoughts.
Do teammates or fellow running friends treat you differently because of your faith? If so, in what ways?
Chanelle: I have never had anyone treat me differently because of my faith. If anything, it has intrigued a lot of people. I often get messages on my social media accounts from fellow runners asking me how they can incorporate faith into their running, or thanking me for being an example of what a Christian athlete looks like.
Dominique: No, I have never had a problem with teammates treating me different because of my faith. I have had a lot of my teammates actually admire me for it and want to talk more about it with them. I have had plenty of conversations with teammates, coaches and other competitors about my faith and we have all even prayed before our event.
Khamica: No, I find that many of my teammates share similar beliefs and faith so everyone is pretty supportive and encouraging!
In what ways would you say that your faith affects you as a runner pre/during/post race?
Dominique: My faith is a big part of my pre-race ritual. I have my devotional that morning and say a prayer just thanking the Lord for another day to be alive and mobile. Before the meet I am blasting gospel music. I have a certain playlist with gospel songs that mean a lot to me and remind me of God's grace and mercy. I choose to do this because it helps ease my mind and keep me focused on my purpose in running; which is for God's glory and to inspire others.
T'erea: My faith affects me as a runner because I was going to quit running, so now I am a professional track athlete because of my faith. After the 2012 Olympics, I wanted to quit. I suffered injury after injury, I even had hip surgery and I completely stopped believing in myself. I questioned everything about my life and I wasn't happy. I have always been identified as a track athlete and in a way I resented it. So once I was tired of being miserable I truly turned to God and I started looking at my life. I knew I had more to give to the sport and I didn't want to quit. I thought about my success and realized when I had success I wasn't using it to glorify the Kingdom. So my success was taken from me. Then I realized that my complaining and pity party I had for myself was to me, a slap in the face to God. I knew God was trying to tell me something. I didn't believe in myself, so I could only believe in Him; after realizing that I stopped praying for everything in specific and I only prayed for PEACE...that's when my life changed. Because of my faith I'm still a professional track athlete. I run for God and for God only now.
Michelle: It makes me stronger. God is my rock, so even if I don't like the outcome, am frustrated or confused as to why things didn't go as planned, I know God has his reasons and knows best! I do say a pre-race prayer for safety and fun.
Do you any bible verses as motivation? If so, which ones and why?
Khamica: These are 3 I like to recite before my races. "Greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world". "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". "He gives strength to the weary and increases power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men will stumble and fall but those who hope in the lord will renew their strength."
Chanelle: I recite Philippians 4:13 on the starting line before every race. I also have many go to bible verses that I recite during practice sessions or prior to competitions to keep me calm. Some of these include: Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:6-7, Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 40:31, and Proverbs 3:5-6.
Dominique: I have one bible verse that has been my favorite since I was 11 years old and that is Proverbs 3:5-6.
T'erea: Psalms 46:5 "God is within her. She will not fail".
How does the media respond or react to any Faith like references in interviews?
Michelle: I think they pretty much ignore it.
Khamica: Ideally, they prefer athletes to not speak about religion in media interviews because it can be controversial, but I still make sure I glorify God regardless because it means that much to me.
Chanelle: The media seems to appreciate the references I make to my faith. For instance, I remember doing an interview after I won the 2014 World Indoor 800m Championship, during which I made the following statement: "I use the track as my sanctuary and the race as my praise." The media absolutely loved that.
Dominique: I have never had anyone in media or after a interview react in a strange way about my faith or references to God. I think a lot of reporters are used to it and think that its a typical thing for athletes to recite.
From your experiences, what advice would you give other Christian runner's who plan to compete?
Michelle: Be you, and if you believe, then don't care what people think! Rejoice!
Dominique: Any runner out there of any sort, I would say hold tight to your faith! There will be test and trials that come your way but keeping your eyes on God will get you through them. You can't look at the bad and get dismayed. Once you accept that and give it all to God, He will direct you to your own victory!
T'erea: The only advice I would give to a Christian runner is to keep God first. It may be cliche but that's honestly the only way I am able wake up each day and give my all to this sport. It's not easy to train day in and day out. It's not easy getting injured. But if you keep God first and trust Him, you'll be okay.
Khamicha: Being a Christian athlete isn’t about praying to win. Just because you pray more than someone else doesn’t mean God will make you win solely for praying. Yes, that is the end goal is to win and you do want God to give you guidance but the importance of praying before and after races is that you ask Him to help allow you to go out there and compete as best as you can for Him regardless of the outcome. Even if it’s good or bad, still glorify Him because it’s His will as to why we even get the opportunity to compete and do what we love. If it’s not the result you desire or where you want to be, be patient because your time is coming on His plans.
Chanelle: I would tell other Christian runners to be proud of their faith and invite God into every aspect of their running. He gave us this talent, and He wants to be a part of it. Talk to Him during your practices and at your races, and carry a list of verses to refer to that will help keep you motivated. My favorite line is "Do your best and leave the rest up to God." Not just in running, but in every aspect of life.
With other elite runners like Ryan Hall, Allyson Felix, Jenny Simpson, Gwen Jorgensen and more, it's obvious that even some of the greatest within the sport believe that they have not and could not have accomplished these goals and more without God in their life. My hope is that if you do believe in God that this will encourage you to consider incorporating Him more in your training and races. And for those who read this and feel like they've lost their passion for the sport, are looking for more out of it, or don't have a relationship with God, that maybe He could be the missing piece to your peace in the sport,
"Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us". Hebrews 12:1