A New Identity
The decorated middle distance runner on her faith journey in her own words
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As I stood on the starting line for the 800m final at the 2021Olympic Trials, I felt so much joy, peace and gratitude. Such a stark contrast to the overwhelming emotions of fear, anxiety, worry and doubt I experienced at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Trials.
MY FALSE IDENTITY
In 2008, I was a senior in high school garnering a ton of attention for my success on the track. This was exhilarating for 17-year-old me whose entire identity had become “Chanelle Price, The Track Star.” The pressure to uphold this title, though, became too much to bear throughout my college years at the University of Tennessee (2008-2012).
I felt like I was running with the weight of the world on my shoulders, and it wasn’t fun anymore. It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom in my first post-collegiate season (2013) that things changed, and that change was God.
I laid in my hotel room in complete darkness (literally and figuratively) at the 2013 USA Track and Field Championships. After failing to make it to the final round, I was contemplating if life was worth living anymore. Who was I if I wasn’t “Chanelle Price, The Track Star?”
That’s when I heard God speak to me. It wasn’t like the windows of heaven opened up and He shouted in a loud, scary voice. It was more like a gentle whisper, words I knew weren’t from me because I would never say anything of this nature: “Chanelle, if you just chase after Me like you chase after track, just watch what I do in your life.”
Huh?! Chase after You, God?! What does that even mean?!
I knew of God, and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior in high school, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Him. In that moment, though, I was willing to try ANYTHING.
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A NEW WAY TO RUN
At every USA Track and Field Outdoor Championship, there are chapels held for athletes, coaches and support staff. I reached out to one of the individuals leading the chapels in 2013, Jodi Hasbrouck, and basically told her that I needed help. Shortly after, we began a weekly Bible study with two other USA track and field women.
I was committed to forming a relationship with God through studying His Word, going to church and surrounding myself with a community of believers. Embarking on this new faith walk was life-changing. I was introduced to God’s immense love, and it was explained to me that God loved me despite my performance on the track.
All He wants is for me to use my gift of running as a form of worship to Him. This was so freeing! Running became fun again. The heaviness was lifted off of my shoulders, and in 2014 I went on to win the Indoor World Championships, becoming the first and only American woman to win gold in a world championship 800m.
A few months after winning that title, though, I broke a bone in my foot.
“Was God mad at me?” I asked myself. “What’s the point of faithfully following God if bad things are still going to happen to me?” This began a two-and-a-half-year streak of me chasing after God but also chasing after the things of this world.
By the end of 2016, I felt so empty inside. Nothing satisfied me. Not running. Not money. Not success. Not fame. Not guys. Not family. Not friends. Not social media.
I knew the problem was that I had drifted away from God, and I can remember praying something like this: “Lord, I know nothing else in this world can satisfy me other than my relationship with Jesus. Here I am. Do whatever it is You need to do to deepen my relationship with You.”
What came after that prayer was four of the hardest years of my life. In January 2017, I was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism (blood clots in my lungs) followed by mononucleosis in June 2017 and a fractured foot in October 2017. In January 2018, I lost my Nike contract.
In February 2018, I fractured my foot for the second time and had surgery. And in April 2018, I lost my nephew at birth to preeclampsia. I spent the second half of 2018 and all of 2019 trying to make a return from foot surgery, and in 2020 we were all hit with a pandemic.
Then, in November 2020, I fractured my foot FOR THE THIRD TIME.
During those times, I felt despair, confusion, fear, worry, doubt, anger and discouragement. Faith doesn’t stop those emotions from coming, but faith does allow you to overcome them. Through prayer, worship and God’s Word, I was able to get out of that pit of darkness.
On the days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, the days when I didn’t have it in me to keep fighting, the days when I just wanted to give up, I would cry out to God and tell Him exactly how I felt. I would blast my worship music in order to take my focus from my circumstances to my Almighty God.
I would recite Scripture over and over and over again until I believed it. Some of my key verses were Proverbs 3:5,6, Philippians 4:6,7, Isaiah 40:31, Isaiah 41:10, James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5 and Romans 8:28.
Romans 8:28 (New Living Translation) says: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Was everything I went through good? Absolutely not. But good has certainly come from it. My relationship with God has gone to such a deeper level, which is exactly what I prayed for back in 2016.
There’s something about hardships that make you so desperately dependent on God, and as you cling to Him, He’s able to reveal things about Himself you’ve never seen before.
As you abide in Him (John 15:4) and seek Him first (Matthew 6:33) and love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30), the Holy Spirit is able to do a work in you and produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23) in your life.
MY NEW IDENTITY
In the 2020 Olympic Trials 800m final, I left my all out there on the track. I stood on the line just so grateful for everything God had brought me through. If it wasn’t for my faith in Him, I would’ve no doubt given up.
Although I ran a personal best time, I did not qualify for the Olympics. My dream of becoming an Olympian has come to an end. But perhaps, in God’s eyes, it was never about the end goal. Perhaps it’s always been about the journey and the transformation from a girl who once defined herself as “Chanelle Price, The Track Star” to a woman who now identifies as “Chanelle Price, The Child Of God.”