Massachusetts’s middle- and long-distance runner Abbey D’Agostino ran the women’s 5,000m race in the Olympics. At Dartmouth College, the 24-year-old runner became the first Ivy League athlete to win seven individual NCAA Championships, becoming the most decorated individual in track and field. Now she is also an Olympian.
As a child, Abbey experienced full support from her family, and incredible freedom to pour herself into her passions. Throughout high school and college, she was always “intrinsically motivated academically and athletically,” and performed at the top of her class and the field time and time again. However, with her diligent desire for perfection, she found herself completely burnt out in college.
“I very much felt like an underdog, and like I had to compensate for what I thought I was lacking. So I internalized the high performance environment, and was earning my position in the classroom and my position on the team,” says Abbey, “And that became my mission.” Externally, she was excelling. But internally, she was falling apart.
Anxiety and panic attacks became Abbey’s daily reality—she was desperate for relief, for an entirely out-of-reach peace. “Hey, this is overbearing. This is too much. I’ve done this. I’ve set these expectations for myself,” she remembers saying to herself. Running had become a burden.
Abbey says, “I knew that I had a natural love for [running], but I felt a disconnect between my external and internal world. I think that’s what really led me to question, to seek God through that.” Desperation overwhelming, she was driven towards God; she wanted to know God personally.
In 2013, the night before the USA Championships, an anxious Abbey set up Chariots of Fire in her hotel room for inspiration. While she was watching, she grew even more nervous and shut it off. She says, “I remember praying and saying, ‘Whatever happens in this race, it’s in Your hands, Lord.’”
“At this point, I was learning what prayer looked like, what a relationship with God was. It was very much like barebones, like, Okay, I give up.”
Abbey says, “If God allows you to see things through His lens, you’re going to conduct yourself differently with much more peace.” As she got to know God better, she was able to readjust her perception of what is most important, and perfection lost its grip on her.
“I remember waking up the morning of the race and feeling such peace. And I didn’t qualify, and I was fine, and I was relieved and joyful,” says Abbey.
Since that race three years ago, instead of stressing over an expectation for perfection, she has been able to find peace in racing for the glory of God. Through burnout, she found God. Through God, she found peace.
Copyright © 2016 Struggle and Triumph