Faith and Running: “Will you still love Me?”

Sometimes we all need a little kick in the butt to get us back to where we’re supposed to be.  That’s how it was for me, anyways.  I was fortunate enough to make it all the way through high school without a single injury. Yep, you heard me right.  I’ll never forget my last high school track race ever—the 1500.  I finished in 8th place—far from a state champion, but I sure felt like one.  It was something I had worked so hard for over 4 years and I finally received some recognition for it.  But then I got to college and it didn’t seem so great.  I started looking at other people who were much better runners than I was.  Suddenly I felt so small.  Once again, my first two years were flawless.  Had a couple of occasional bumps, but nothing that a couple of days rest didn’t heal.  My freshman year I was part of the team that qualified for nationals in Ohio, which is still to this day one of the best experiences of my life.  But it wasn’t until my sophomore year of track I had my “break-out.”  Everything started to click—my body had adapted to the high mileage and I finally Read more

“God Tends to Work In Amazing Ways” by Garret Ethlers

(Garret Ehlers is a former 3200M and XC Champion at OA-BCIG. Now is a NAIA All American in the Steeplechase at Morningside.)

God tends to work in amazing ways and can transform your life at any moment through the smallest actions.  I know this all to well as my life was forever transformed the day I discovered running, it was through running and my teammates that I began my walk with God as well.  At all levels my teammates have been behind me pushing me in my faith to further it and become a better person and Christian.  They take initiation in making sure I’m where I need to be and pushing me to continue growing and talking to God daily.  When God blessed me with the gift of running He opened my eyes to so many unbelievable things in life and let me see all the beauty that life has to offer me.  Running has taught me self-responsibility for my actions, it’s shown me a way to have fellowship with my teammates and friends, it’s taught me to be other-oriented, as well as teaching me one of the greatest lessons in life I’ve ever learned of always believing in myself and in God’s plan for me.

During the second semester of my freshman year was when I truly found God in my life and started to see all the ways that He blesses me daily.  I started looking to Him for guidance every day, reading His word as much as I could, listening to Christian music and trying to get more active in the church I attended.  I found staying in His word and thanking Him easy at college being surrounded by my friends who walk beside me in my faith.  Unfortunately, as summer rolled around I traveled back home and through running, family, friends, and fun, some how I put my relationship with Christ on the back burner.  As cross country rolled around signaling the start of my sophomore year I knew it was going to be a tremendous year.  However, for every running high there’s always a running low and I found the year would be a back forth struggling over how I was producing and what I was capable of.  Through out cross country I constantly felt pressure beating on me to lead my team in every practice, meet, and run.  I quickly became worn out physically and emotionally however continued to push forward to help my team.  It was at that point when I realized that I hadn’t been as strong in my faith as I needed to be and I took the pressure that I put on myself and placed it squarely on God’s shoulders.  During moments of weakness in races I would take that negative energy and transform it into positive and when I knew I had to make a big surge or move or hold on for dear life I knew God had my back and I would pray.  Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” would be running through my head as well as 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” Through all the ups and downs of the Cross Country season it was God I looked too when I was stumbling and wasn’t where I should have been and it was Him who lifted me up and restored me to where I needed to be.

 Indoor track and field was a season I had been looking forward to all year.  My freshman year I had found successin the 3200M relay as well as the 3K and 5K and I was eager to gun down my personal bests, make a run for the school record, and take a trip to nationals.  The reality of my plans for myself and God’s plan for me however did not align for indoor and I was plagued by frustrations and feelings of inadequacy.  I managed to go a whole year without touching a single one of my best from my freshman year, I was having great workouts in practice but I was struggling to convert them to good races.  The hinge in my running career occurred at the ISU Indoor 5K, a year previously I had won my heat as well as broke my best high school time by more than twenty seconds. This year I ran hard but finished slower and in the back of the pack.  Throughout high school my self-confidence in my running never wavered, but at this point in time I had no self-confidence in myself and I began running cowardly and getting complacent in my races.  Mentally I was wrestling with the questions of why I was struggling.  I was constantly asking myself why am I running? Is it for my benefit or for God’s benefit? Am I running for my own selfish reasons or for God’s glory?  I was getting advice from a vast majority of people who told me conflicting advice and I was at a loss for who to believe and listen too.  There was a point in the midst of my disgruntlement where I had completely lost my passion for running.  It was to the point where I received no joy from the thing I loved most in the world.  However, a friend from high school once told me for every rise in athletics there is a fall and for every fall there is a rise, so I marched on believing God would pull me out of it and restore me to the runner I was.  Remaining as patient as I could through the struggles was a hard task for someone who was breezing through running for four straight years.  I tried keeping my eyes steadily on God and trusting in Him and how He would work.  I started noticing doors open for me outside of running that lead to me being able to share Him with others which eventually would lead to my running returning to normal.  Finally at the conference meet, God’s plan and my plan finally synched up and I was able to end the season on a good note.  After a season of being humbled and working so hard for what appeared to be so little God finally tossed me a ball and I hit it out of the park.

Outdoor track brought many challenges and obstacles for me to overcome.  With momentum finally on my side I anticipated keeping it there for as long as I could.  I also was trying the Steeplechase for the first time and was still trying to figure out running for myself and God.  As the season rolled on I did my best to balance my faith and running, which was becoming easier as I switched my major to religious studies.  I was finding success in the steeple and was finally becoming the runner I always dreamed I could be.  The most monumental of the season occurred during the Conference meet, I was running the 5K as a double after a steeplechase earlier in the day.  The temperature had be blistering all day but was finally cooling off, the race underwent and quickly became a three person race.  With 1000 meters to go in the race I was in third by about thirty meters and was exhausted, I told myself I would more than likely end up getting third in the race.  Within moments of thinking this God was pushing me and I surged on until I was leading and with 200 meters left in the race, I had a substantial lead of twenty meters.  My body physically shut down at this point, but my heart powered me on, my body tightened up to the point where I was barely moving, stumbling as I crossed the line collapsing, solidifying the third place.  I was told I shouldn’t have been able to finish the race, that my body physically wouldn’t let me, but God on that day reigned down upon me and guided me.  I don’t remember the last 500 meters of the race, I totally blacked out and as I crossed the finish line I was delusional.  God didn’t only bless me with the heart of a lion that I had always prayed for during my struggles of indoor but also with amazing teammates who took care of me and nurtured me back with words of encouragement.  I was an emotional wreck beyond belief feeling so disappointed that I physically ran til I couldn’t run any more and it still wasn’t good enough but the race that I was so disappointed in quickly became the race I was most proud of.  After that race I was cooling down, somewhat talking to people as I gained my wits again, but twice I knelt down to pray to God and thank Him and both times I was so overcome with joy and humility of God’s greatness that I broke down in tears.  It was at that defining moment that I realized why I was running.  Through running I have matured faster than I ever thought I would, but I always struggled with why I was running and what the overall reason was directed at.

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. “

That’s a quote from Chariots of Fire, that hits the nail right on the head.  I discovered that God has blessed me with these talents of being able to run, a joy and passion he placed in my life that I cherish every time I get the opportunity to do it, that He gave me a heart bigger than I could ever imagine, and transforms me through running.  I find that God gave me this talent for a reason and while it may not be my main purpose it has opened up so many doors for me in my life especially in my faith.  Every time I get the opportunity to run, I run to display the talents that He blessed me with and do so with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  I work as hard as I can and sacrifice everything I have to to show God how appreciated I am of this talent, it’s my way of thanking Him.  “Life is God’s Gift to Man. What We Do with It Is Our Gift to God.“ I intend to do everything I can to reach my potential not only as a runner but as a person in life so that I can give back to God for everything He’s given to me.   I run to praise the Creator who gave me these blessings and every time I run I wish it to be a gift to God to glorify Him and His greatness.

Outdoor Nationals was something I had never experienced and was very eager to go after my dreams again.  It also gave me another step in my faith as I was given the blessing of praying for our team often and being more open with my faith and sharing it with those around me.  Over the four day span that we were there I was constantly in prayer for my teammates and for myself.  Thankfully God answered all my prayers and gave me one of the most memorable weekends of my life, helping me display the talents that He gave me for all to see.  I found through the season that running helped me mature as a person and more importantly help me further my walk with God.

An Honorable Career: Betsy Flood

Today, Betsy Flood was one of 24 Big Ten student-athletes named “Outstanding Sportsmanship Award Winners” for the 2011-12 academic year. She was chosen from a group of 300 student-athletes honored throughout the academic year who had displayed positive sportsmanship.

PARK RIDGE, Ill. — University of Iowa seniors Betsy Flood and Matt Gatens are two of 24 Big Ten student-athletes named Outstanding Sportsmanship Award winners for the 2011-12 academic year, the conference office announced Wednesday.  Betsy, along with all those honored, distinguished herself through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, she was an excellent student and time and time again, demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

Betsy is one of the most decorated student-athletes in Iowa track and field/cross country history. The two-time team captain is a five-time Big Ten Championships runner-up (3k, 3x5k, 10k) and ranks among Iowa’s track and field all-time top 10 performers in the 800 indoor, 1,500, mile, 3k indoor, 3k outdoor, 5k indoor, 5k outdoor and 10k outdoor. She also ranks among Iowa’s top 10 cross country performers in the 3k and 6k and is the school record holder on the 6,400-meter relay.

Betsy (far right) with her Drake Relays’ Champion 4x1600m team from Iowa

She is also a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and has been on the USTFCCCA All-Academic team four times. The Des Moines, Iowa, native is active in the University of Iowa Day of Caring and co-founder of Healthy Hawks, an organization of Iowa student-athletes that visits area elementary schools to promote health and nutrition. Flood also coaches on the Girls on the Run program for elementary students that teaches students about personal values and self-confidence.

Just another reason we are very proud of Betsy Flood!

For the full press release CLICK HERE!

“Renewed Strength, Faith, and Other Blessings” by Alana Enabnit

Renewed Strength, Faith, and Other Blessings   by Alana Enabnit

Before the school year started, if someone would have asked me what God would teach me during my first cross country season, I would have said perseverance. Perseverance is the only thing that ran through my mind after I received the call about my stress fracture. I was sure it was going to be a season about just making it through and coming back strong and healthy for track. So, if one would have told that teary eyed runner who was sitting by the beach that day that this season she would further discover the strength one has through Jesus Christ, she probably would have doubted every word. Read more

More LOVE for Wartburg Track! Newsom “Coach of the Year!”

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced on Friday the nation’s top leaders as voted by the coaches of NCAA’s Division III for the 2012 outdoor season. McMurry’s Barbara Crousen and Wartburg’s Marcus Newsom were named National Coaches of the Year while North Central’s Tim Winder and Illinois Wesleyan’s Greg Huffaker were named the top assistants of the division. Read more

Wartburg:Track Program of the Year!

photo courtesy-USTFCCCA

Click here to read the USTFCCCA story about Wartburg’s award of Track Program of the Year!!

Knights, Iowa is proud of you!!!!!

A Recovery Run by Jim Kirby

I’ve always felt more things applied to running than not, at least symbolically. In many ways, my involvement in running has helped me to preserver in different aspects of my life such as enduring suffering, understanding the work needed to achieve a goal, appreciate delayed gratification and the need to see the big picture and not to focus only on the immediately accessible.

Running certainly applies to faith. The apostle Paul knew and understood that. He was no stranger to running or at least he was aware of running as a sport.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (Cor 1.9 24-27)

“I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” (Gal 2:2)

  • “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Gal 5:7)
  • “And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” (Phil 2:16)
  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7)

I am forever applying the lessons and symbolic virtues of running to my life and I can’t help escape it now as I look at another plus 50 birthday and deal with the issues of life.  As with any runner in the midst of training I am sometimes in need of a long recovery run. I need to recover from the hard intervals, challenging, exhausting competition and other efforts. I need to flush the system of all the lactic acid, impurities and hopefully expand and make the system more efficient. Most people call them vacations or extended weekends, but for me these recovery runs take the form of walks, retreats or simply spending more time doing the fun and easy things that make me happy and or sane. Some times they have very little to do with spirituality and definitely nothing to do with work and being a priest, although taking those recovery runs make me better at all of those things.

Like any worthwhile long run it isn’t always easy, I mean a long run of 20 miles, while good and effective for a runner, still takes ambition to do it and even though it may be done at an easy pace there does come a time when blood sugars drop and carbohydrates can get depleted. Even so, the determined runner must continue and I know that the long runs I take in life will be no different.  Like most long runs, it will be easy and fun at first, but difficult at different points along the way. These long runs are absolutely necessary and needed for me to improve as a Christian, person and yes, a runner. It is, as author Matt McCue described “An Honorable Run.” (Thanks Matt!) I invite you to follow along and perhaps attempt your own recovery run in your own way.

The following posts under the category “A Recovery Run” will be my personal attempt to apply the many gifts, blessings, benefits and lessons learns in the great classroom of running.   I’ll see you along the way of my “Recovery Run”

A Little Help From Our Friends…


“Would you be willing to be a “Sponsor” or place an ad?

When The Next Level Iowa came about, Jim Kirby and I knew it had potential. It has outgrown what we had hoped for already! The number of “hits” and comments we get on a daily basis is beyond what we had dreamed of. To do this right, to promote our Iowa kids like they deserve, takes money. Period. Jim and I never planned on this venture costing us much of anything. Nor do we have any intentions of making any money. With that being said, we are looking to see if anyone is willing to help us out? At the risk of sounding like a “televangelist”, we need donations. We want to be able to put video of kid’s performances on our site. We want to have pictures of them in competition. We want to post links to other sites for results, schedules, rosters etc. All of this takes bigger and better equipment than what we have. I look at all of this as a good problem, because we thought these issues were a year or two down the road. BUT…it proves that there are people out there, who want to know about our Iowa kids and follow them through their careers. If you are interested in being a sponsor or placing an ad on our site, or know someone who does, please contact us! Any amount would help. Small donations added up, equal large donations. We would love to visit.
Mike Jay and Jim Kirby

“The Dream of the Blue Oval” by Obsie Birru

The Dream of the Blue Oval when talking about Iowa, many people are unsure of where it is located, at least outside the context of The Drake Relays. For many years The Drake Relays have attracted national attention and has become one of Iowa’s greatest sources of honor and pride. It has become many high schoolers’ and professional athletes’ dream to be able to compete its blue oval. It is known for its great competition and experience. If you have not attended The Drake Relays, you are missing a very special and thrilling experience as the relays have continued to grow and evolve.

My real first experience with The Drake Relays came when I was in middle school. In 7th grade we competed in PE class in order to decide who would become the fastest four runners to represent our school at  The Drake Relays. Let’s just say I didn’t make the cut! I discovered quickly that sprinting was not my expertise. Growing Up in Ethiopia, people lived and breathed running. Runners were considered our countries pride and joy and all the people envied them. As you might know running has been in my blood for a long time, but back then, little did I know what the relays where about and how they could influence my desire to become an inspired runner. Read more

“Running in Faith” by Colette Gnade

Colette Gnade

Running to Faith Reflecting back on my last few years is a nauseating, frightful, humbling, exciting, and satisfying experience all at once. I am extremely thankful that I had the opportunity to compete against such outstanding middle distance athletes during my high school years. The blue oval will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I will cherish all the memories I have had at Drake Relays and the State Meet my entire life. Those opportunities have allowed me to go to one of the best universities in the country, the University of Virginia. The combination of top notch athletics and academics at UVA made my decision to attend easy. Unlike high school, on the other hand, my collegiate experience with running has been filled with injuries Read more