When the Fire is Gone

Week after week rushes by and it’s hard to believe we’re already deep into May. My outdoor season is well under way and I am happily training, racing and enjoying this season. With a few races under my belt, I can dare to verbalize my mindset for this summer. What was first a secret between me and God, I finally confessed to Tony just a couple weeks ago: the fire is gone.

My understanding of a successful athlete has always been one who is fiercely determined and passionate. Someone with a fire in their heart to chase their goals single-mindedly and win. Those are the qualities I have sought to embody for a very long time. I would write down my goals on a huge piece of paper and post them on my bulletin board months in advance of the season. All my training and race performances would be evaluated with those goals in mind. In training, I would run as many miles as my body allowed. On race day, my main focus was always to execute the splits as precisely as possible to run a new PB and win. The fire burned.

Until one day it dawned on me that my incessant pursuit of excellent results was primarily greed. With this realization, the fire started to flicker. What I always thought was determination - it was desperation. I’d never even allowed myself the thought of not achieving every one of my lofty goals, but I started to consider that possibility, and I began to loosen my grip. 

On race day, there's no noticeable difference- the excitement and nerves are still there, including that brief moment on the start line when I wonder "why put myself through this?” Similarly, my desire to execute and improve in workouts has not changed. As always, I aim to succeed.

It’s the in-between moments that have shifted - the time not spent running which used to be spent thinking about running. Constantly making plans, solving potential problems and plotting success was all-encompassing. It was an unhealthy mindset which I struggled against, always seeking balance - wanting to live and think in a way reflective of my true priorities where my running performances are nowhere near the top. The Lord has been with me in every step of this struggle, in fact I believe He led me to it. God actually promised us hardships because they help us depend on Him daily. When life’s circumstances are challenging or painful we are reminded of our need for God. 

And suddenly, I’m not fighting that battle anymore. The fire is gone and with it I’ve lost my edge - of uneasiness, greed, stress and pressure. Why now, after many years of inner turmoil, have I come out the other side? I don't know, but my thankfulness is profound. I relish the calm in my spirit! Especially as this is an Olympic year, the peace I have is undeniably a treasure. As my competitors are racing all over the country, I can look up their race results without anxiety. (To be honest this is a miracle.) As a favourite to make the Olympic team, the pressure could be crushing me, but instead I am lighthearted. I very badly want to make the team, but simply do not feel that I HAVE TO. 

This ease in my spirit made me wonder if I’d given up. The fire had gone out. My burning obsession of striving and desperation were set aside. Since my family, husband, and coaches have supported me and encouraged me for years, I didn’t want to admit it. It felt like a betrayal of their investment and their trust if I were to care less. 

But I don’t miss the fire! My new reason to depend on Jesus is to keep the feeling of uneasiness and desperation from returning to haunt me. Every day I start with a prayer of thanksgiving and of protection. "Lord God, I’m not perfect but I am at peace. Thank you. I never want to fall out of this peace and back into emotional spiraling. I give this over to you. You have brought me to where I am now, and I will continue to depend on you. Please use me to bring you glory. Give me your perspective today. Amen."

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
— Psalm 5:3
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
— Psalm 62:5-7