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Run Your Race – Part 4
Run Your Race – Part 4
A Larry Bird poster and images of the Iowa Hawkeye football and basketball teams adorned my bedroom wall when I was a high schooler.
Right in the middle of them of all was one cherished poster – Alberto Salazar.
For many, Salazar is not a well known household name. For runners back in the early 1980’s, Salazar was the shining star for the US in the long distance running world. He ran for Oregon in college and set records in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters on the track. But his brilliance was found in road racing. From 1980 to 1982, he won three consecutive New York City marathons and added the Boston marathon win in 1982.
In this “Run Your Race” series, we have seen men that have run for a purpose… something greater than themselves. You can see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here.
Salazar too ran for a purpose. He ran for God.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Son of a Cuban immigrant, Alberto was driven to succeed at running. His competitive fire was fierce throughout his running career. But during his rise to success, he thought it was all about him… and God faded into the background. Injuries ended his short but amazing running career.
God was not done with him yet.
Alberto is now using his passion for running by coaching some of the best American long distance athletes in the world at the Nike Oregon Project, a venture by Nike to raise up long distance runners to compete with the Africans who have dominated the sport.
Runners like Galen Rupp and Mo Farah, 10,000 meter track stars who were set on winning a 2012 Olympic gold medal – something the US had not done since 1964.
Although faith was not a prerequisite for his runners, Salazar stressed that they needed to run for something bigger in their lives than running. They needed a purpose.
Galen Rupp is a Christian and he and Salazar prayed together before each meet. Mo is Muslim and all three are the best of friends.
Tragedy struck prior to the Olympics. Salazar had an unexpected heart attack.
For 14 minutes, his heart stopped and the oxygen his brain needed was cut off. Only through repeated CPR efforts was he revived…. without any long term damage. It was a miracle and Salazar knew it.
With renewed life, he trained Galen and Mo for the race of their life at the 2012 Olympics. The final bell for the 10,000 meters rang and his two runners were right there with the Africans. With 200 meters to go, Galen and Mo sprinted and separated themselves from the pack. A roar erupted from the stadium in London – Mo Farar, an Englishman, was about to win the race! Close behind him was Rupp, claiming the silver for the US, the first US medal in the event for many years.
Salazar said afterwards that he understood his own lesson that he had shared with his runners – there is something bigger in your life than running. This would not be his Olympic victory, but that of his students. God’s grace, through his shortened running career and his brush with death, was evident and brought him full circle. Let God set the pace and let him lead.
Fulfill your purpose. Run your race. Feel His pleasure.