Whether it is a local 5K, Boston Marathon, or Iron Man Triathalon, there is something inspiring about watching athletes race against one another. Many of the athletes are trying to set world or personal records. Others are looking forward to finishing the race for the first time. Some are looking to make a certain time in order to qualify for another race. Whether you are a recreational runner, competitive athlete, or just enjoy cheering from the sidelines, there are many principals we can gain from the discipline required to be an accomplished runner. We interviewed Olympian Jim Ryun and Olympian Mark Crear. Ryun was the first high school athlete to run a mile under four minutes and would later go on to compete at the Olympics three times, hold five world records and be on the cover of Sports Illustrated seven times. Crear was the 1996 and 2000 Olympic silver and bronze medalist and was twice ranked as the world’s number one at 110m hurdles. Risen interviewed Ryun and talked to him how he handled the disappointment of going from the gold medal favorite to not qualifying for the race and Crear reflected on how he realized running was his purpose.
Ryun shares what it was like going from being favored to win the gold medal in the 1500-meter race at the Olympics to instead experiencing a crushing disappointment.
“I was spiked by another runner and fell. When I fell, my head struck the railing and I was unconscious for several seconds. I managed to get up to finish the race, but I did not qualify. Anne had been up in the stands for the race and immediately she started heading for the tunnel where the athletes entered the track. Two days previously the first terrorist attack against the Israeli teams had taken place and there were guards armed with machine guns stationed at 10 or 20 yard intervals, yet miraculously no one stopped her. She met me coming off the track into the tunnel. We embraced and just stood there for a few minutes. Then we said a prayer, basically a cry for God’s help. Very soon the media and the coaches descended on us. They said it was obvious that I had been fouled and offered assurances that I would be reinstated. Then everyone disappeared. We left the track and started walking back to the Olympic Village. As we walked, I realized that in order to be reinstated, I needed someone to write that reinstatement petition. We passed the ABC television booth and I boldly walked into the booth and approached my friend, Howard Cosell. He said, ‘Jimmy, I’m so sorry. Sit down. We’re gonna write up that petition now. You’ll be right back in those Games!’ So we submitted the petition to the IOC [International Olympic Committee]. The next day, we still had heard nothing. I suited up to get ready for the next round and finally an IOC official came up to me. ‘Your petition has been denied,’ he said. ‘Why don’t you come back in four years and try again.’ I wanted to strangle him!”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Crear shares how he went from running to realizing that it was his purpose.
“It’s funny, because I think track found me, I didn’t find track. I started track and field in my eleventh-grade year of high school. My high school track coach approached me and asked me to come out and run track. My life was in a hurricane at the time. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was really lost. I was thinking girls, shorts, tights, you know, and I really went out for that. But something happened when I started running. I fell in love with the sport. Every time that I ran, I just felt this weight come off of me. This was the one thing I had that no one could take from me. You know, God is so amazing with his perfect will and permissive will. He will always finish the good work. I see now that even then I was being led to my purpose. However, you have to be always aware, be obedient and submissive to his leading in our lives. I always tried to be sensitive to what was going on and tried to act on God’s leading in my life. There is a difference to wanting a hand-out; I wanted a hand-up. All I needed was a lane to run in and I knew the rest would work itself out. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but when I realized my purpose, I just had to take the first step. We all just have to take the first step; God has already taken the second step for us.”
To read our entire interview with Jim Ryun click here and to read our entire interview with Mark Crear, click here.