I grew up in Hiram, Ohio, in a family that went to church on Sundays. It was just part of life. But when I got to college, I started to want a more meaningful personal relationship with Christ. My roommate, now one of my best friends, was a solid follower of Christ. She influenced me toward Him and helped me at a time in my life when I was very impressionable. That made a huge difference in the direction I started moving from that point on.
My faith has been a big part of my athletic journey. The more I compete at a world-class level, the more I realize that a lot of people I compete against have similar physical ability. What separates the winners from those who are just competing is mostly mental. My faith in God allows me to put all kinds of emotional and mental energy into my running. If something happens that I’m not expecting or that I feel is an undesirable outcome at the time, my faith gives me perspective to see things from a wider angle and to look forward to the future and realize it’s God’s plan, not mine. I can put in the work, but God’s the one who will determine my success.
It was a big step to move so far away from family and friends to prepare for the 2012 Olympics, but I have learned to turn to God at difficult times in my life. When I moved to Oregon, I saw myself moving away from Christ because I did not have a very well-grounded community to turn to. I bounced around a lot in that time. But through that experience, I realized that the closer I am to the Lord, the less I regret things that happen, and the more able I am to do things, go places, and have diverse opportunities. The more I let go of trying to control everything, and the more I give to Him, the better and smoother my life seems to go.
Even when things don’t go the way I planned, God is in control. If He allows me to fail in my eyes, it might be a success in His, and I might be able to be used in other ways through that failure. Knowing this gives me relief and hope and keeps me going. For example, in the weeks leading to the Olympic trials, I did not perform my best. I was really scared that I was not going to qualify, but I really felt like I grew closer to God. I learned that I can put as much as I can into my career, yet I can’t determine my success.
Sometimes I can try too hard and try to do things through my own strength, when really, I should just be doing what I can and leave the rest up to God. It’s the best way, and the way I’m going to be not only the most successful, but also the most rewarded and happy with the way my career ultimately ends.
—Bridget Franek, USA Olympic runner