Jessica Pixler (leading the pack) sees running as an extension of her faith, which is something she learned from her mentor and coach, Doris Brown Heritage. Photos by Joanie Komura.
Jessica Pixler no longer runs simply for her own glory
During her entire running career, she's broken conference records as easily as you could break a dish. She has eight NCAA titles, and was recently recognized in Sports Illustrated. Bottom line: Senior Jessica Pixler is pretty darn fast. But she doesn't run just for speed. Jessica sees running as a way to worship God - something that she first picked up from her former coach Doris Heritage. Jessica talked about that revelation in this piece that she wrote as a sophomore for etc.
By Jessica Pixler
As a college athlete, I often struggle with balancing the demands of distance running with those of school, family, friends, and faith. People don't often realize how much of your mind is involved in running - and I'm not just talking about during a race. I've been taught to pay meticulous attention to what I eat, how much I sleep, and how my social life affects my races. This leads to a dangerous tendency to focus inward. In my constant self-awareness, I often lose sight of those around me and, most importantly, God. My first season running for Seattle Pacific, I ran for myself and for my own glory. But things have changed, thanks to God's work through Coach Doris Heritage.
“I feel like I’m really in deep communication with God when I’m running … It’s such a good feeling to push yourself to the very limit you can go.”
Before big races, Doris often gives her athletes a Bible verse to provide them wisdom and strength when they compete. One race, Doris gave me Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." My view of myself as an athlete radically changed after focusing on that verse. I now understand that God's mercy allows me to compete, and I desire to glorify him by running.
I now feel as if running is a sacrament, like taking communion. As a Catholic, I believe the act of communion puts my trust in God's covenant and allows me to experience God's presence. In the same way, I feel wrapped up in God's presence when I run. When you push yourself to the limit, and your body does something you thought impossible, that's a way of experiencing God. I now know that as a Christian and a runner, racing can't be about facing inward, but upward. Running is a gift from God, and I plan to use that gift to glorify him.
Read more about Jessica Pixler in SPU's Response Magazine