I have always loved running, and track was a highlight of my high school career. I competed in the sprints, including the 400 meters, the 200 meters, and both sprint relays. My junior year, I even qualified to run in the California Winter State Championships.
In the weeks leading up to the meet, I was dealing with a flood of fear and negative thoughts about my races. This seemed to be a mental pattern for me prior to any important competition. Though I would run well during practices, and complete all the physical training to be successful on meet day, I’d find myself bogged down by fear whenever I would think about my races.
I didn’t want to be burdened by these thoughts, and I also knew that being fearful wasn’t a good pre-race mind-set. Frustrated, I took my concerns to my Christian Science Sunday School teacher, hoping to find a way to deal with these fears, rather than being bullied by them. At that point, it was obvious to me that the only way to change the way I was thinking about my races was to turn to God. All my life, I’ve found healing and peace as I’ve prayed, listening to and trusting God. So it was logical to think that understanding something more about God could help me this time, too.
My teacher reminded me that fear is a suggestion that God’s goodness isn’t going to be there, or that we could somehow be separate from God and outside of His care. But this couldn’t be true because God is ever present, so His goodness is always expressed everywhere, in every situation. This goodness includes all the qualities I needed to run a successful race. During our Sunday School class, I wrote down a list of these qualities, including courage, perseverance, strength, joy, freedom, and love for my teammates and the sport.
In the week leading up to the race, instead of letting myself be overwhelmed with fear or negativity, I consistently allowed those qualities to fill my thoughts—putting them into action during practices and keeping them at the forefront of my thought whenever I considered my upcoming races. As the week went on, the fear and anxiety that had seemed so oppressive started to fade away. I even began feeling peaceful when I would think about the competition. I realized that I wasn’t running for some kind of personal achievement; I was running to glorify God. I also prayed with the idea of letting go of human will and trusting God. To me this meant that I didn’t need to worry about my race, because I was letting go of fear, doubt, and personal responsibility and letting God fill me with freedom, and the expectation of good.
Saturday came, and before my race, I felt calm as I continued to focus on expressing spiritual qualities while I ran. The feeling of God’s presence completely replaced any fear or worry. As the race began and I barreled down the track, I felt peaceful, strong, and full of energy. I had a fantastic meet, posting an excellent performance in the sprint medley relay. I attribute my success that day to my complete change of thought about competition, and the fact that my thinking was God-centered, instead of me-centered, before and during my races.
The lessons I learned during that meet have continued to help me during my college track career—especially the understanding that we can always overcome fear through a better understanding of God.