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or find the file at http://traffic.libsyn.com/hopesports/HS22-Olympic-Runner-Abbey-Cooper-DAgostino.mp3

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About This Episode

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Despite her years in the pool as a swimmer, it was destiny for Abbey to become a runner. Both of her parents were avid marathoners and her mother a triathlete, but it took until high school for Abbey to muster the courage to lace up with them. She joined the cross country team as a freshman in high school mainly because all students were welcome and she didn’t have to brave a tryout. The first day she recalls being so nervous that she could hardly get out of the car. But she was quickly welcomed into a jovial, family atmosphere among the girls on the team and her first two years she experienced one success after another. Unfortunately her final two years were marked by several coaching changes and health issues, but her love of running persisted and she was recruited to run for Dartmouth. She looked forward to working with an entire team of woman who were equally invested in their sport and their studies and came into her first year just hoping to add some points to the team. She never anticipated having the incredible season that she did, which culminated with her qualification for nationals. Empowered her to see her own potential as an athlete, Abbey began dreaming a bit bigger.

The support of her parents, her collegiate coach, and her faith community gave her the resources in every area of her life to flourish. She invested in a faith community through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes which allowed her to develop her sense of identity and purpose outside of her splits and standings. Her coach, a former Olympian himself, reinforced the narrative that they had the potential to achieve more that what they considered possible and Abbey rose to the challenge. In 2012 after her sophomore year, she qualified for the Olympic Trials and says that it was, “like the icing on the cake at the end of the season.” Her underdog status gave her the ability to relax and just enjoy the experience - a posture that she credits with her impressive performance. She qualified for the finals and took fifth place, less than one second away from qualifying for the Games. Even though she was disappointed that she narrowly missed those Olympics, running better than she could have ever hoped gave her a confidence boost and renewed vision for her next few years. “I set my mind on taking it one year at a time and enjoying the rest of my collegiate experience and then going on from there,” says Abbey.

She graduated from Dartmouth in 2014 as the most decorated Ivy League runner in history and with seven NCAA titles to her name. New Balance signed her to their team and she moved back to Boston near their headquarters and, conveniently, her family. But her first few years as a professional were not seamless. For the first time in her career she began to struggle with physical injuries. Stress fractures and muscle injuries plagued her which deeply refined her character as she dealt with her own frustration, anger, and perceived loss of control. Running had become an idol in her collegiate years and it was being repeatedly stripped away. “If running is my ultimate source of satisfaction and identity, then I won’t ever be satisfied,” says Abbey. The challenges recovery built in her a sense of humility about her abilities. Just weeks before the 2016 Olympic Trials she experienced a stress fracture in her shin that nearly removed her from competition. She placed fifth at the trials, but two woman who had finished ahead of her forfeited their spots in order to run the 10,000m race instead of the 5000m and Abbey was granted a spot. More than ever, she realized that her place on the team was truly a gift.

But in the weeks between the trials and the Games while recovering from her shin injury, she suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis. Not wanting to give up her spot, she soldiered on and was restricted to non-impact workouts in the pool only; she wasn’t allowed to run at all until her actual event. Her mental space was one of peaks and valley as she wrestled with her training limitations. She stepped up to the line of her preliminary run not confident in the status of her fitness, but determined to run a race of which we could be proud. As 5000m races typically go, the pack started at a conservative pace, but picked up speed abruptly around the 3000m mark. This sudden pace change caused a collision in front of her tripping New Zeeland runner Nikki Hamblin who caught Abbey’s foot under her as she fell. Both women ended up in a pile on the ground, but rather than continue on with her race Abbey made the split second decision to run backwards towards Nikki to encourage her to get up and finish. The two woman proceeded together, despite the fact that Abbey was visibly injured. She would later learn that this fall had torn her ACL and meniscus, an injury that she is still recovering from today. The woman embraced at the finish line and video footage of the event immediately went viral. Abbey had absolutely no idea that anyone would see what happened on the track that day, as preliminary races harder garner any attention, but her sense of sportsmanship and unity was praised as “The Most Beautiful Moment” of the Olympics. Around the world her actions were applauded, but she says, “I was just thankful to be an instrument in the larger story that the Lord was telling.”

Earlier in the week before that race she had heard a story from Olympic chaplain and former distance runner, Madeline Manning. Madeline shared about a time that she got hurt during a race and instinctually prayed for help to finish. She doesn’t remember the last 100m of the race, but knows that God carried her through the end. Madeline shared a verse from Ephesians with the athletes present at her session and Abbey held on to that story and even had the verse written on her hand during that preliminary race. When she fell, she instantly thought of Madeline, thought of that verse, and without hesitation went back to her competitor because it was the right thing to do. The media attention and publicity was overwhelming for both woman, but has been an incredible part of Abbey’s story and has given her a platform to share about her faith and the values that she believes to be at the core of the Olympics.

The past two years Abbey has been working to regain her strength, balance, and stamina after undergoing surgery to repair the damage done by that fall. At times she still faces frustration at the pace of recovery, but is confident that she will work her way back to Olympic standard in time for the 2020 Olympic Trials even if it’s not how she envisions the journey. “God can take our dreams and reroute them for His glory and our ultimate benefit,” says Abbey. To younger athletes she shares this advice: “Be sure that you’re cultivating joy in your pursuit.” Sport needs to remain fun, a passion, and with the richness that comes from knowing worth and purpose. She advises athletes to not try to do too much too soon, saying, “so much of success if just layers of consistency.” Through it all, she can testify to the fact that challenges will inevitably come, “so the earlier you can start finding your identity in the right things, the better.” Abbey is on her way to the trials for the 2020 Summer Olympics, so be sure to follow her recovery on Instagram,  Twitter , and Facebook so you can cheer her on.

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[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports Podcast where we believe sport can give you the freedom to be your best. All too often the fear of failure takes the fun out of the game. We're here to help you discover the real joy and freedom to compete for your best. I'm your host Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. I can't wait to jump into today's conversation. But before I do I want to tell you about a really cool way that people are engaging with this podcast. We're giving a big old shout out to Courtney Spencer's 7th-grade writing class at maybe Junior High in Texas. Courtney found the Hope Sports Podcast and created an entire project around it. Her students have been listening to different episodes and then writing the athletes from those episodes they listened to with what they learned. And we are loving it. You guys are amazing. Keep believing in your dreams and pursuing purpose and you guys are bound to change the world. Speaking of believing in your dreams we have such an inspiring guest on today. Abbey D'Agostino Cooper is the most decorated Ivy League track and distance runner. She has seven Institute titles and runs professionally with Team New Balance. But she is most well-known perhaps for what was named the most beautiful moment of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. In the preliminary race of the 5000 meters. Abby was tripped up when another runner fell in front of her. But instead of continuing on she went back to pick up the other woman to finish the race. Her actions are the epitome of sportsmanship and they represent the heart of the Olympics. And today on the show she shares the story behind that moment. She shares her less than the perfect run-up to the Olympic Games and her own struggle to recover from an injury. And through it all she shines this incredible humility that I'm so excited to share with you. So let's dive on in.


[00:01:53] Abby Cooper, welcome to the Hope Sports Podcast. It is such an honor to have you here with us today.



[00:01:58] Thank you, Laura. It's an honor to be here.



[00:02:01] OK. Well, let's just kind of start with what made you fall in love with running? Kind of take us there.



[00:02:07] I have kind of in the background where I didn't start off running when I was like three years old if there's anything like that. I grew up in a family of runners both my mom and dad. I was growing up when marathons and my mom was actually a triathlete as well. So I was raised in an after just kind of exercise enthusiast environment. I was actually a swimmer growing up. I swam competitively through 8th grade. And when freshman year in high school rolled around. Honestly, the reason I first went to cross-country practice was because that was the only sport that I didn't have to try out for. And I had never been to a sport with individuals who were so much older than me. And I think I know that I was a bit intimidated by that. So I didn't even want to get out of the car the first day of practice. But very quickly found that it was such a welcoming and jovial group of girls. And quite a big team actually too. So it felt like a family and I learned pretty early on that I had a natural talent for it. So yeah just worked out.



[00:03:22] Oh that's so cool. I love it. Was there a specific moment do you think in or out of the competition that kind of changed the trajectory of your running career?



[00:03:31] Well, I think there was probably a series of those in the time that I've been running. My first couple of years in high school I had quite a bit of success. Those first two years where I actually ran my best times. My sophomore year in high school and had continuous coaches in those first two years. And then after I think it was between my sophomore and junior year in high school. We started having quite a few coaching changes even within seasons. And I started to struggle with some health problems of mono and anemia. So running wasn't going quite as well for me those last two years. And you know school was getting harder. So although I was still an active participant in team captain and still involved very involved with the team. My love of it started to just become a bit more. There were ebbs and flows I think and how enjoyable it was. Then again I think that now as I look back it was a blessing in disguise because it really set my heart on competing in college. And looking forward to this new start where I was going to be around a whole team of people who were equally as invested in the sport and in their academics.


[00:05:12] I love my high school team but there weren't many of us who were looking to compete at a more serious level. Yeah, really my first two years of college were just exploring what it was like to buy into this mentality. As you know running is not just an extracurricular activity but actually a lifestyle what does that look like on a day to day basis. So that really changed my trajectory in that I was able to more fully realize my potential over the course of those first two years. I was actually quite surprised by the jumps I was able to make in my performance. As well as the love of the sport where I'd never imagined at all. My goal entering freshman year was to just contribute to the team and be able to score points. So when I qualified for a national championship and then was able to go on after that. That was not anything that I expected. So I haven't been pretty quickly.


[00:06:25] Just over the course of those 4 years that's when I grew to realize that I was capable of competing on an even grander scale and look toward professional running. So I'm really thankful for my coaching. And the support system around me that embedded that allowed me the resources to realize that and grow in such deep ways.



[00:06:55] So who was that support system like was it just a coach? Was it the whole team? Was it one person in particular? Like who really kind of helped to grow and change? And like you said really make that your lifestyle.



[00:07:08] Right. So yeah. It was a collection of amazing people. And of course, my family was behind me the entire time really. In allowing me to choose the school where there are no athletic scholarships at Ivy League schools. So you know that was a huge sacrifice on their part. It started there. And then I was actually recruited by a different coach than my collegiate coach Mark Coogan. And the other coach had gotten pregnant and resigned the summer before we arrived on campus. But then found out that Mark had an incredible experience and background being an Olympian himself. And he was really a great fit for our team at the time. And helped us learn how to ask more of ourselves and believe we had the potential to be a national caliber team. So he again was hugely instrumental. I had no idea what it looked like from a physical standpoint from a psychological standpoint emotional to compete at that level. So he planted the seeds. And he was also a perfect balance personality wise where I'm by nature a type A personality and he's a validly type B. And so where I tend to overdo it he was always there to balance me out. And help me to remember the joy of it when I started to get a little bit too dialed in and just self-destructive way.


[00:08:59] And then aside from my incredible teammates who are still some of my best friends to this day. I think one other huge component of my support system in college was the faith community. In college was where I came to faith. There were a lot of outlets you know Christian groups on campus. But the one I was most connected to was called FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) which I'm sure many listeners are familiar with it. But yeah I had great discipleship and mentorship through that program. And really just learned what a personal relationship with Jesus could be. You know in part through my experiences but then also the way I was drawn to the people in that community. So yeah.



[00:09:55] It's interesting that you said you came to faith there and through Fellowship of Christian Athletes. But why did you start going if you didn't already have that faith. Like what brought you there?



[00:10:06] That's a great question. So I did grow up in the church. I was raised in a Catholic home. And you know like we were regular churchgoers and I attended CCD. And I had a very much intellectual understanding of who God was. And as a first born as a natural perfectionist I kind of understood God as prescribing a set of rules that I had to follow. And I was always good at following rules. So it really was kind of a work based understanding there. And then you know when I started to struggle in high school with my health and running wasn't going as well and school was harder. It just became less intriguing to me. Because if I'm not reaching that standard that God is supposedly setting. Of course, I'm going to run the other way if I don't know who he is. And so I didn't really at the time. So entering college I had a few teammates actually which is amazing to think back of such a small team. I had multiple teammates who were believers and were regular members of FCA. And would invite me to their Bible studies and larger group gatherings.


[00:11:31] I'd gone not on a regular basis but again I was enticed by the people there. The message that I heard. And yeah. I just sense that it was real for those involved. And it wasn't until I started to experience the pressure that came with the success I was experiencing in running and in school. And the sense of internal emptiness that I felt. It wasn't until then that I really started to seek help from that. All that I had heard who Jesus was and the freedom that he provided. So that's really what it started to become personal.



[00:12:22] Oh That's awesome. I love it. And you did have a very successful collegiate career. You were the most decorated Ivy League track and cross-country runner. You won 7 NCAA titles. That's insane. So where did your pursuit of the Olympics begin and all of this?



[00:12:39] So in 2012, of course, that was an Olympic year. I had just finished my sophomore year in college. And another teammate of mine Alexi Pappas she was senior that year and she had also she and I both qualified for the Olympic Trials in Eugene. And she in the steeplechase and I'd qualified in the 5000. So we really just went to that race. You know as I said we were done with our academics. I was living on campus at Dartmouth that summer. So we just enjoyed that as kind of an opportunity as the coach would call it icing on the cake at the end of our season. He had spoken of course so fondly of his experiences in college at the Olympics. But then in college at the Olympic trials. And how much of a benefit it was to be an underdog in that environment. And so we both were able to compete there. And I very honestly had I mean again I told you I was at times by what I was able to accomplish in college.


[00:13:58] But I think that experience at 22 miles trumps all. In terms of just being so shocked but I able to handle that type of competition. So yeah. It took me to really process. For those who don't know, I qualify for their trials and finals. I qualified for the final. So I was about less than a second shy of qualifying for the Olympics that year.



[00:14:37] So heartbreaking.



[00:14:39] So yeah. Honest. I really didn't know it was. But I really felt like emotionally I'd gone from zero to 100. I wasn't mentally prepared to be in that place at all or even close. So it took me a while to digest that experience, recognize, and feel thankful. This was introducing me to this potential that I didn't realize was there and so. Yeah. I mean I was very content and satisfied with my experience in college. And I wanted to though I knew within my heart I wanted to do anything I could to be there in 2016. I really set my mind up taking it one year at a time and enjoying the rest of my collegiate experience and then going on from there.



[00:15:37] Smart. So you said going into 2012. I mean kind of like you said you weren't really sure what to expect there. So I mean were you actually happy with the result or were you still upset? I just hear a second often it sounds heartbreaking to me but like wasn't in your headspace. I mean maybe that was really exciting. And Dan Jansen telling us that he got 4th in the Olympics his first Olympics. And he was stoked like he thought he did great and everybody is like oh that’s a shame he didn't win a medal but he was excited about his performance. So yeah. I guess I should have asked you what exactly was your headspace going in there?



[00:16:09] Yeah. I mean really? Like I remember I kept actually a pretty religious journal of kind of the happenings. And you know because we had been out in Eugene ten days before the race so we're able to experience the vibe of the Olympic trials. And I remember actually writing that the goal was really just to make the final. And I actually ended up winning the prelim. So it's not that you know with a prelim I was just like I was so stunned but by how relaxed I felt. I think just because the stakes for me were so low and it was actually really beneficial evaluation tool. For me to see Oh I actually perform well. When you know you hear about as an athlete like the optimal arousal for competition. And then I walked away from that experience realizing that I actually perform better when I'm a bit more relaxed versus hyped. So yeah to answer your question the goal was just to make the final. So then when I was able to do that and then come so close.


[00:17:26] I think the best word is just surprised. You'll see if I were to rewatch an interview you know I'm crying in the interview of course. I think that was more just this like paralysis. It's hard to say I was disappointed. Because I truly believe that the Lord's will was not for me to be there that year and for three other amazing athletes to be there. But as I grow older and more mature in my career I recognize just how few and far between those opportunities are. And so it is challenging not to look back and feel a sort of sting from that.



[00:18:13] So interesting how the perspective changes. I totally get it. I totally get it. Well, so what changed you when you finished college and you started running professionally and aiming toward Rio 2016. So kind of take us on that journey.



[00:18:27] So when I graduated in 2014 I signed a contract with New Balance and was able to move to Boston which is right near where my family lives. And really just was such a seamless fit in terms of training environment. I was part of a newly developed team and the New Balance headquarters are in Boston. So it really seems to be almost too good to be true. And then pretty much right off the bat. You know later on that fall when I started training after the summer for the next season I started getting injured. You know it was like first a soft tissue injury and then a few months later I got my first serious stress bone injury. And then a team that every six months or less I was getting the same sort of thing in different areas. And in college I never had longer term serious injuries like that. So yeah that was new territory. It challenged me to say the least. And you know provided a right opportunity for God to reveal my heart to me.


[00:19:52] And just in the way that I would respond to the continuous cycle of those things happening. And the anger and bitterness that I had to wrestle with. And just revealing that just how powerful running can be as an idol in my life. It just kind of stripping away layers of control and comfort. And graciously showing me that you know if Running is my ultimate source of satisfaction than identity then I won't be satisfied.



[00:20:32] Oh such a good lesson.



[00:20:36] Right. And it was so humbling to go through it so many times and also realize my pride in that. Like I started to develop the sense of like I've been through this before you know. I feel like I've learned this lesson and God just showing me like when we struggle with some good thing that brings us joy. And then it's taken from us and we have to kind of shift and replace you know remind ourselves where our true identity really lies in Christ. It takes a long time to at least for me I'm stubborn you know. I don’t want to speak for anyone else but it took a long time for me. I hesitate to even say to learn that lesson. I think it's just gonna be a bunch of relearnings.



[00:21:27] Yeah. Right there with that.



[00:21:30] Yeah yeah. So that was kind of the road to Rio in 2016 was just kind of like this total ebbs and flows of health and injury. Really up until you know 10 weeks before the Olympic trials I got another stress fracture in my shin. And it was the first time that I really felt like desperate before the Lord with the injury like I'm just tired. You know like I felt emotionally fatigued from all across training and thankful for that time because it taught me a lot about just relying on his word as manna. You know as like my food during that time. I'm just trusting that it would be there for me freshly every day. So getting to the starting line at the Olympic trials itself like the fact that I was able to get healthy. And with very limited training on the ground you know I was actually doing a lot of swimming. I was able to still get to the starting line. And then I actually didn't even place top 3 in the 5000 I placed 5th. But then to the gals in front of me forfeited their spot. So I was able to sneak in fifth place.



[00:22:51] Why would you forfeit a spot on the Olympic team.



[00:22:54] So two of the other women Molly huddle and Emily Infeld had also qualified in the 10000 meters. So they both decided they didn't want to run the 5000 and that was essentially what allowed me to run in the games. So that was an enormous gift. I still think about you know the moment that Emily came over to me at Team processing and shared the news you know. Super super emotional.



[00:23:24] So did you find out at trials or not until way later?



[00:23:29] I found out the same day as the race. It was just like 3 hours later or something like that.



[00:23:37] Wow.



[00:23:40] Yes. So just getting a spot on the team felt like a gift in and of itself. And then there were 3-4 weeks I think from the trials to the games. And I got another stress fracture in my pelvis between that Tucker in that period of time. So you know in light of what happened in Rio. You know like I think it is really important to share actually this part of the story. Because you know what I always say is like everything that happened in Rio was a product and was made possible because of what God had done beforehand. To prepare me for that event and just giving me a season of trial. I was on crutches with the pelvis injury. I was told that I could still go and compete at the Games. But like I couldn't not run until the week before I could just get on the track a couple of times just to make sure my hip wasn't going to break during the race. So needless to say it was just like I was so thankful to be there. You know it's like you can't go wrong you're an athlete village just kind of soaking it in. But internally it was challenging just not to be in the same routine. I had people asking what event I was swimming because I was out in the pool. God just continued this work that he was doing it in my heart to make me fully dependent on him through that time.



[00:25:22] And I know because I've been through a lot of these seasons too. It's hard sometimes to know that in the middle of it he's actually equipping you for something. Did you recognize that? Or were you just frustrated like OK I thought I got it, you know. Like where were you walking into Rio in your head?



[00:25:40] Yeah. That's a really great question. I would say it would depend on the moment. I felt that one of the things I noticed most you know I'm an avid journal. And I really value my devotional time in the morning. And I just like I would start off the day. So just incomplete enjoyment of devouring the word and because it was all I had. It was like it really spoke so deeply to my heart. It always does. But like in such a powerful way through that season. You know it took a start off the day feeling assured of why I was there. And that you know God had clearly just because of the way things had happened you know he clearly wanted to be in Rio for a reason. And I challenge myself to not stop looking for that reason and just be where I was and trust him with how it would unfold.


[00:26:43] So yeah there were there were peaks and valleys in terms of like feeling assured of why I was there. But then also you know by the end of the day this feeling discouraged and frustrated and honestly annoyed. You know it was just hard. Like a solo sessions in the pool you know that they have no translation to what you're you know it really is so hard to tell where my fitness with that. So yeah there were ups and downs. Absolutely.



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[00:28:12] So walk us through Rio. You actually got to compete but as you were being prepared it was not exactly what you were expecting I don't think. So walk us through. Because you made headlines worldwide it was one of the biggest and brightest stories of the games but not for reasons you would expect. So tell us what happen.



[00:28:31] During the preliminary round of the 5K we start off pretty conservatively. And that's exactly what happened which was completely to my benefit. As I said I've been working really hard in the pool but I wasn't quite sure where my fitness was at. So we started off at a pace that I could handle. And about 3K into the race right where it usually starts to pick up. It did. And I was in the very back of the pack. And you know I guess there was just some sort of sudden pace change up front of the pack and there was a domino effect. And a couple people the gal in front of me fell and my foot got caught under her. And little did I know I had torn my ACL and meniscus. But yeah. I was able to get up. And both of us this woman Nikki Hamblin from New Zealand and I were both able to help each other to our feet and then finished the race. And then later when I couldn't walk I found out that I had torn my ACL and meniscus. So in short that is what happened.


[00:29:54] But you know there were so many small moments and big moments throughout my experience. Even before that the race in Rio where got to just place people in my life or encouragement in my life. To like give me strength in the moment where I had to make a decision like I'm hurt. What do we do? And it just happened so quickly that the decision to get up and help this other girl from New Zealand like that is not. It happened so quickly. I know from the bottom of my heart I can't take any credit for that. That's not the way that I'm wired. You know I had the same goals as everyone else out there to go and to compete in the final. And so the fact that it was an instinct to get up and help her is just the work of the Holy Spirit. As I said he had made me so dependent on him in the time leading up to it. And things have been so hard that I had no choice but to rely on his strength and be fueled by his joy. As I said there were so many little things that had happened.


[00:31:18] I'll just share one quick thing. There was an Olympic chaplain named Madeline Manning Mims who had shared a story. So she's an Olympian she ran in the 68 and she had several time Olympian. She just shared an experience of back when she ran in the big games and she was in a relay and she had hurt her knee. And in the middle of the race it was a 4x4. And like coming around the bend with 100 meters to go she could feel her knee. I mean it was affecting her stride and she remembers praying Lord help me. And she finished the race but she does not remember that last hundred meters. And several years later she went back to the track where that Games was held. And she just realized, I don't remember it but this is where the Lord carried me through. And she shared a verse from Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we could ask or think. And then it goes on. And I was so inspired by that story. And I'd written on my hand actually that day “Now to him who is able”.


[00:32:41] And so when I fell I remember like it was this is just the work of God. Like everything's happening so quickly that I was just like Madeline. I thought about her. I thought about how the Lord had carried her through. And that really I mean that just spoke through me and allowed me to continue on despite you know knowing something was seriously wrong with my knee. So yeah. I'm just so thankful to be an instrument in the larger story that the Lord was telling through what happened there.



[00:33:18] Did you realize in those moments that it was a big deal?



[00:33:23] I had no idea that it would receive the media that it did whatsoever. No idea. Of course this is the 5K prelim so it's like 8:30 in the morning or something. You know there were barely any people in the stands. Until I think that is such a testament to the way the Lord is too. I mean the way that it happened I am thankful. I believe that I belonged at the at the Olympic Games and you know what I like self-deprecating. But I was not in a position to medal or even close that year. And so the fact that it would happen to me and another gal who was in a similar position at the you know the problem of a race no one is there. Like that's just like the Lord has just wrapped himself in humility. The whole situation was wrapped in humility. And so I think that's such a cool piece of like how it happened and the fact that it points to him. So yeah. It’s really cool.



[00:34:29] I love reading because of course I have to do my due diligence and stock you a little bit before you know we talk. But I was reading some things that Nikki had said too. And she just curled up into a ball when she fell in front of you and in slow mo. I can totally see your knee go out too. That’s ah! Yeah. That kind of felt good. But she said she was just curled up in this ball and you kept saying you have to get up. You have to finish the race. And she said if you hadn't told her that she said I might still be laying in a ball on the track you know. But you just like you said God was preparing you and feeding you that message like you just have to get up and finish. And she got up and then that's when your knee started to get out and you collapsed and she helped you back up. And you eventually went on. You had four laps left I believe is that right?



[00:35:13] Yeah. Something like that. Yep 4-5.



[00:35:15] You ran the last 4 laps on a torn ACL and meniscus. I mean it was just incredible. And you guys embracing after it was over. Those are the parts that the world the rest of the world saw you know and understood immediately. And that's why it was so beautiful about the Olympics right. So it's amazing and people to whom do these great feats and someone win these medals. That there's those moments is really human humble moments where you realize that just your humanity is way more important. And then just being a person of love and to not worry about what's happening to your result. But you care enough to pick up the person next to you and help them cross that finish line or get up and go. You know I mean that's why it's so beautiful I think.



[00:35:56] Thank you. Yeah. Like I said I can't take any credit for the event itself and how it went down because it doesn't belong to me. But at the same time I agree with you. I do think it's amazing. I'm stunned by it and grateful to just be a part of it. Because it really has broadened my platform and ability. A means through which I can use this sport to point to the Lord and point to what really matters.



[00:36:28] So cool. Well afterward I mean I'm wondering. I want to hear about your kind of post Olympic experience. Because I know like President Obama you know even said you guys are exactly what the Olympic spirit in the American spirit should be all about. You and Nicki were nominated for the Laureus World Sports Awards you were nominated for the best sporting moment. I mean was it like a whirlwind? What happened after that? And what was that experience like?



[00:36:53] Right. Oh so overwhelming at first. You know I know for both Nikki and I had a chance to speak with her a few times afterward. And both of us are pretty introverted. You know despite opportunities like this we have to speak to larger audiences. But yeah I mean the next day we had a slew of interviews and we were still just emotionally processing it ourselves. And Nikki actually was still gearing up to run the final a few days later. So I can imagine what it was like for her. But yeah I mean even going home afterward and just having to get surgery and thankfully was able to. My mom is a nurse and was so cared for and just kind of nourished in that time. I was able to just be like you know have a small circle around me. Because it was so overwhelming and just it allowed me time to digest the experience and feel thankful. Yeah I mean just process all of the emotions that came with it.


[00:38:12] And since that time I've just kind of having surgery and recovering from that. I do still feel a calling to a deep calling to continue clearly. You know I'm still running now and still doing the best that I can to make it to the Olympic trials in 2020. Yeah I just I sense that the Lord isn’t done with me in this realm yet. And I know there is still potential to be released. So I have been continually humbled by just how long it's taken for me to just feel like myself again. I feel like I've had glimpses of it. But you know my injury is such a unique experience for an Italy distance runner. You know there aren't many practitioners who have worked with someone like me before. So I'm sort of a case study and taking time to find the right people. And then of course you know I've gotten married and moved in that time as well. So just a lot of transitions and adjustments. And so what I just continue to again re-learn is just that it's OK to sometimes they get frustrated. Because when you care a lot about something.


[00:39:42] You know I have this dream of reaching my potential and making it to the 2020 Olympics or another Olympics. And when I still can do to have little glitches and things pop up because my body isn't quite balanced yet. I do some get frustrated. And God's reminding me that it's OK to still have that dream could still believe it. But you just can't envision what it looks like together. You'll never know you know. And if I've learned one thing from Rio it's just that God can take our dreams and rewrite them for His glory and for our ultimate benefit. And that's exactly what he did in Rio and so I just need to trust that. From now probably for the rest of my life never gonna happen as pictured or as anticipated. And I'm just learning to find his peace and joy in that.



[00:40:48] Yeah. That's so beautiful and so true. Yeah. I totally understand where you're coming from. I've been through a lot of these seasons myself so I'm relating a lot of what you're saying. So what kind of advice would you give to an up and coming athlete?



[00:41:05] It's a great question that I get asked quite a bit. And I always feel unsatisfied with my or dissatisfied with my response because it's a little bit cliched. But one thing that I always caution against is just getting to. I guess the best way the best advice is to be sure you're cultivating joy in your pursuit whether it's sport or anything else. Because I think you know the trends now in our culture is just early specialization. And just hyper-focus and hyper volume especially in runners early on. And the potential for burnout is so strong physically and psychologically and emotionally. So yeah I look fondly although sometimes in my high school experiences I wouldn't have said the same. But I do look back fondly upon those experiences because we just kept a really lighthearted atmosphere at practice. And I was not overdoing it in terms of my actual physical training. And yeah it just takes time. I think so many of the athletes that I compete against will say the same thing. Where it just so much of success is just layers of consistency. And so if you squeeze too much out of yourself too soon there's a definite risk in that.


[00:43:05] And then another thing that I think is even more important is just along the way asking the WHY question. You know. Why is the sport so important to you? And why does it bring you joy? And can it ultimately satisfy you? You know it's so hard. I certainly didn't have the maturity to ask that question when I was in high school. But I think the simple like WHY? is a great place to start. And hopefully you can start getting the wheels turning about like the deeper things. Even if an athlete hasn't experienced a challenge in their sport quite yet it will come inevitably in some form. So the earlier you can start finding your identity in the right things the better.



[00:43:56] So good. Well, so I guess how can we follow you online or cheer you on the way to Tokyo in 2020?



[00:44:07] So both my Instagram and Twitter handles are @abbey_dags my main name. And I'm on Facebook as well Abby Cooper I just have an athlete page on there. So yeah. I would appreciate your support.



[00:44:29] Of course we'll make sure to link to that in the shownote so everybody can just click on that and follow you because we definitely want to cheer you on. Abby thank you so much for coming on for inspiring us for sharing your journey for being so open and vulnerable with all of those things we really appreciate it. And I think it's going to help all of us grow a little bit more.



[00:44:47] Thank you Laura. Thank you for such insightful questions. Just being able to relate through your experience.



[00:44:55] Isn't she incredible. Hearing her whole tumultuous road to Rio gives so much backstory to that moment on the track that went viral around the world. She had already been through so many trials and difficulties and was building her identity throughout it all. So falling at the Olympics was just an opportunity to once again get up and keep going. I hope that you feel inspired today to keep going through those hard moments and to remember that your words isn't wrapped up in your situation or your performance. If you're an athlete in these themes are hitting home for you then check out the work that hope sports is doing. Hope sports has upcoming workshops and programs for athletes looking to develop a value based performance mentality. Just check out the show notes for more information. Up next week we have Jonathan Horton sharing about the ups and downs of his 28 year career in gymnastics that includes two Olympic medals. I'm your host Laura Wilkinson. Thanks for listening. This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please visit HopeSport.org


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About This Episode

Growing up, Ryan Hall trained for hours upon hours on his swing, his pitching, and his catching; he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. Unfortunately he could practice all he wanted, but it would never change his physical build enough to be a viable candidate for baseball. But, as he would soon learn, practice would indeed make him faster. His dad had always been a distance runner, but Ryan didn’t share the same passion for hitting the pavement. In fact, he didn’t enjoy it at all. But one day while sitting on the edge of a lake near his home in California, Ryan says, “I felt God tell me to run around it.” With no training or preparation, he and his dad ran the slow and painful fifteen miles around the lake. It was from that day forward that he says that he knew he would run in an Olympic Games.

He dedicated himself to training and was an all star high school athlete. Despite his reservations about attending a trendy, powerhouse running school, Ryan signed with Stanford University after he graduated. He had always been a decent student in high school, but was utterly unprepared for the rigors of college and wasn’t cut any slack for being an athlete as well. His undergraduate years were brutal. At one point his professors weren’t even confident that he would pass his classes, injuries plagued his racing, and his entire sense of identity was compromised because of it. “I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw because I wasn’t performing well,” says Ryan. He wrestled with relentless negative self talk and depression that drove him home midway through his sophomore year. Knowing that he needed to confront his destructive performance mindset, Ryan began pursuing his faith in God to rebuild his identity. “I needed to see myself how God saw me,” he says. He returned to Stanford with a new confidence in his self worth; what started as an inward transformation began to work its way outward, resulting in faster and faster times.  

He signed with ASICS right out of college and continued his running career on a whole new level. He had always dreamed of running alongside the very fastest individuals in the world, and now he was training, traveling, and racing his dream alongside his wife, Sarah, who was also an elite runner. Ryan soon realized that his 5K times were simply not competitive, which led him to up his race length. This proved to be the perfect move for him. In 2007 Ryan made history at the Houston Half-Marathon as the first American to break the one hour mark for a half marathon with a time of 59:43. He describes that race as feeling enfortless, a “mountaintop experience.” Unfortunately there is no half marathon at the Olympics, so Ryan upped his distance once again to the marathon length. That same year he logged the fastest debut marathon ever by an American at the London Marathon, where he took seventh place. He followed that up with a first place finish at the US Olympic Trials and qualified to race at the 2008 Beijing games.

Of the Olympics, Ryan says it “completely lived up to its hype.” From the athlete village, to running with some of his heros, to the ceremonies - it was a dream come true. His dream also included him running the race of his life, which unfortunately isn’t what happened.  Three months prior to the Olympics fatigue caught up with him, his times lagged, and he couldn’t overcome feeling sluggish. He mixed up his training, nutrition, and sleep rhythms in hopes of breaking out of the slump, but, in his opinion, his fitness wasn’t as good as it could have been. Feeling the weight of the difficult journey to that starting line, he decided to hand over the outcome to God knowing that it didn’t change anything about who he was. “I told myself that I’m still of worth and value even if I don’t have my best performance on the day that I want it more than anything else,” says Ryan. During the first half of the race he fell behind the pack, carrying burden of the heat, humidity, and his own discouragement. He prayed as he ran and felt God prompt him to start encouraging others athletes along the way. So as he caught up with another competitor he would encourage them, pray for them, or run with them until they caught a fresh wind. “As I turned my thoughts out to other people, I wasn’t focused on my own suffering or pain,” says Ryan. This perspective shift worked; his splits improved and he picked his way up to a tenth place finish, something he is still very proud of.

A year after the Beijing Olympics, Ryan and his wife, Sarah, ran the Chicago Marathon to raise money for World Vision. Following the race, they had the opportunity to travel to Zambia to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the clean water well that was built from what they helped collect. At the event a community member shared with Ryan that the availability of clean water would add ten years to the life expectancy of the 90,000 people in their village. It was in that moment that he realized the impact that running could have on people who truly needed it. The following year Ryan and Sarah founded the Hall Steps Foundation, which raises money for a variety of projects around the world - from foster care development in Ethiopia, to microloans for widows across a variety of countries, to health clinics in Kenya. Runners can fundraise for a race and all of the proceeds go directly to the programs through this volunteer-run organization.

As their foundation grew, Ryan and Sarah continued to run professionally, but unfortunately, a domino effect of injuries afflicted Ryan. He qualified to run in the 2012 London Olympics, but had to step off mid-race because of a pulled hamstring. The injuries didn’t relent and after four years of nursing one after another Ryan decided to step away from the sport. Despite his love of running, his body made it clear that it was time to retire and honestly, he was ready for it. “It was kind of a relief,” says Ryan, “I had a powerful realization that my journey wasn’t all about me.” He looked forward to a new season of teaching, coaching, writing, and speaking, finding it incredibly fulfilling to pour into others and see them succeed, almost more than his own successes. He also took time to heal his body from almost fifteen years of elite running.

During this time the Hall family also grew in numbers. After spending time training in Ethiopia, Ryan and Sarah grew to love the people and culture, while simultaneously feeling convicted by the poverty and growing orphan crisis. They were originally interested in adopting an infant from Ethiopia, but while serving at an orphanage there, were confronted with the need for adoptive families for older children and sibling groups. When they returned to the US they switched adoption agencies and were matched with a group of four biological sisters who needed a home soon to avoid being seperated. Overnight they went from a family of two to a family of six. “It was almost an easier transition than the traditional route,” jokes Ryan, “I have never changed a diaper and have probably only been woken up twice in the night.” It may have seemed like a big move, but they were ready. “If everyone chooses to take their own personal step, then we can see big change,” says Ryan. He hopes that their work can encourage others to look around and find ways to have a positive impact in their own communities. Ryan shares more of his journey in his upcoming book, Run the Mile You’re In: Finding God in Every Step that releases this month. Packed full of insights on identity, purpose, and calling, he writes about how to pursue a relationship with, and direction from, God, no matter a person’s journey.

Ryan’s personal race has come full circle; he heard from God on the side of the lake in California that someday he would help others through running, and that vision has come to fruition. He has traveled the world, grown his family, competed with his heroes, and yet still realizes that the best race is the one run not for himself, but for God and those around him. Keep up with all of the amazing things that Ryan and Sarah are doing around the world on Instagram, Twitter, their website, and through the Hall Steps Foundation.

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[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports Podcasts where we believe the best way for you to unlock your full potential is by
living into your purpose. We believe discovering your purpose is the only way for you to live a meaningful life. I'm your host
Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. And each week I have the privilege of connecting with a different elite athlete to
discuss how they win big in and out of their sport. We want you to compete better and live into your purpose. So stick around
to hear about an amazing opportunity that we have for you. But first, let's talk about today's episode. This week we're joined by
Olympic marathon runner Ryan Hall. And it was such a treat to connect with him on the show. You'll hear about his incredible
accomplishments throughout his career and his mountaintop experiences as an athlete. But what I hope you really take away is
how he overcame seasons of immense struggle in his life. He has so much wisdom to share with each of us as we run our own
race and his message is so encouraging. So let's go ahead and dive on in. Ryan Hall thank you so much for coming on the Hope
Sports Podcast today.
[00:01:07] My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:09] OK For those listening to that may not know your background. Can you kind of take us through how you got into
sports in the first place and how that led you to running?
[00:01:16] Yeah. So my dream growing up is to play professional baseball. The problem was I was you going into high school
like 100 pounds and 5 ft tall. So it's not the ideal frame it turns out for baseball. So you know like I was training really hard and
remember I would throw pitches against a backstop. My daddy built for me in our backyard for hours and hours and pretend
like I was like we need to make the World Series or what not you know. So like I had the dream I had the drive but I just didn't
have like the physical makeup to make that reality you know. And I was grateful that like I learned that at a really young age
because if I would've kept going down that road I probably would've felt like I said my head against the wall for a long time.
You know that's just not how God designed me so it happened one day when I was going down to basketball game and I never
played. I always sat on the bench and basketball was gonna get on the team but that was about it. And I remember looking at it
like in my hometown Big Bear Lake in Southern California. And I just felt like I'd just kind of planted this little seed of a
desire to try and run around the lake which is 15 miles around the lake.
[00:02:26] That’s a big lake!
[00:02:25] So it's a big first round. For a first time runner, it's not a good starting point usually. But that's just kind of who I am
is like I'm a dreamer I love to dream big dreams. But I felt like this one was like there's something different about this dream?
Because I hated the run like I didn't like it at all. Like every time like as in P.E. class and kids have to run the mile like I'd be
just like all my classmates go No I don’t wanna run the mile today. But then I'd go and I'd run hard and I'd run well but it
wasn't my passion I didn't enjoy it. So there's hope to any listeners out there that maybe think you're not ever going to get into
running coz you hate it. That can change. That can change for me that day. So you know I went out and I ran the 15 miles
around the lake with my dad the following Saturday and.
[00:03:15] Wait. So like there was no preparation for this? You just went out and ran it with him?
[00:03:19] Yeah yeah yeah. So I got home from the basketball game and told my dad what I wanted to do and then the next
weekend we went out and did it. And it was a long slow painful effort. I feel like I was out there for days and days like it was
just like I just went I'll just breeze through it no problem. You know it wasn't that way at all. It was like really really

challenging. So I came home and I collapsed on the couch and super tired super fatigue. And I felt like I was like he'd give me
a gift to run with the best guys in the world. But he gave me that gift so I could help other people. And I think that was the
launching point my entire career you know. And I knew what it means around with the best guys in the world like I'd seen the
Olympics. So like right off the bat like I was like that's where I'm going. You know I always had that belief from that moment
was 13 but I didn't understand how you can help other people around you. Now it happened you know come on down the line
actually right after the Beijing Olympic swim. I learned how powerful and impactful sports can be to change people's lives on
the other side of the globe from us.
[00:04:26] Yeah. I love that. I do have to ask though. Is your dad a runner?
[00:04:30] He was. Yeah yeah. And he still is. He's actually like the only one still running our family. We all ran like all the
kids stopped and he's still going. I think that run took a lot of patience on his end because he was a bit like running marathons
and so he felt like we were out for a walk a long long walk.
[00:04:39] That's awesome.
[00:04:50] We'll that’s call father-son bonding right? That’s good.
[00:04:53] Yeah. Exactly.
[00:04:54] Awesome. Well so you ran through high school then and it led you to Stanford. Like what made you decide to go to
[00:05:01] Yeah it's like I feel like God does this to me all the time to the one squad ruled out is like I'm not going to Stanford.
At the time they were like the running powerhouse school on like the trendy place to go in. And like I have never been one of
those people who likes to follow trends you know. So it was like all pride you know like all my pride is like I'm not going
everyone goes there. And then there is also like the academic piece because you know I got good grades in high school. But I
took a very basic level classes like it and take like on a research a P.E. stuff in high school. So I wasn't prepared for the
academics at Stanford at all. So I knew that was going to be a stretch for me if I end up going there.
[00:05:44] But then one of my friends Drew Ryan he introduced me to the coach we're up there a cross-country meet during
my senior year in high school. And the coach like Hey we should just go around I'll show you the campus and stuff. I talked to
my really like the coach and then I did go on like four more recruiting trips to different schools. And ultimately I remember I
sitting in the church at Stanford. Have you been to the church?
[00:06:06] I haven't.
[00:06:07] Oh, it's amazing! And the quad there's this beautiful beautiful church like something that you'd see in like Italy or
something. And I remember sitting in there and then I was trying to decide where to go to school. And again I felt like kind of
the prompting of God to go to Stanford and again like it was not an easy road at Stanford. I struggled hard like in every aspect
of life. The only thing that was really stable for me during my four years at Stanford was my relationship with Sarah who's
now my wife. But we dated all throughout my time at Stanford and her time at Stanford. And without that like literally like
nothing would have been going well for a long long time. Just academically like my teachers were very very very concerned

that even like make it through. Just so far behind everyone else. And then you're trying to just juggle so much as a student-
athlete and at Stanford, they don't cut you any breaks. You know in the same classes same expectations as we're not getting any
special treatment. So it was a real struggle.
[00:07:10] And then there's like all these injuries that came up into that point like early on in my career at Stanford. My whole
identity was kind of wrapped around how I perform. And so when I looked in the mirror like that's what it was all about. And it
worked out when I was in high school except performing at a really high level. Like set a state record in 1600 my senior year
and not a very good high school career. But then when things are going downhill that just totally it's like someone took the rug
out from under me because now I know it's in there. I didn't like that I wasn't performing on the track. So that was a huge shift
that happened. Actually, I got really depressed in my sophomore year at Stanford left school. I thought that I could change
what was going on inside of me by changing the circumstances of my external situation. So I went home back to Big Bear after
winter quarter in my sophomore year. I didn't know if I didn't come back.
[00:08:07] I didn't know what I was going to do but I knew I had to sort stuff out inside me. So I could just feel this like real
happiness. And this really kind of like lack of love for myself you know. So I ended up choosing to go back to Stanford and
just spend a lot of time with God. And in really like learning to see myself how he sees me. And as I kind of was able to adopt
that view was super powerful. And like getting away from that performance burden that I'd been carrying around my whole life
really. And in sports kind of started become fun again because I was OK with family and messing up and getting it wrong you
know. And it wasn't an instant change you know. It's not like I went back and got all this figured out in like a week. And then a
week later it was running fast like there's a long slow gradual shift that kind of happened and started from the inside. Then it
slowly started to come out externally and then start performing better and better in cross-country and track. And I was able to
sign a contract with these six come out of college. And I run professional for 10 years and got a Campbell Olympic Games and
some pretty cool experiences. But you know it was a tough road getting there and I learned through so much through it all.
[00:09:22] I love that. I love that you said it wasn't just an overnight thing like that stuff does take time and a lot of times you
just get frustrated we try to run away. Just I mean just like what you were saying I had just resonates so much with me and
athletes that I know. Yeah and I love that you just stuck with it and you knew the change was coming because it had to. You
had to start from the inside to make any kind of difference. That's awesome. And your wife Sarah who is your girlfriend at the
time was your stability I guess through college. So what was it like kind of you know I mean your dating her then you get
married. And you guys are both runners you know is that a good thing or is there some conflict there? I mean what is that
dynamic like?
[00:09:57] I definitely think it's a good thing. You know like to be a professional runner it's not just like a sport or hobby it's
like an entire lifestyle. So if you're married to someone who's not willing to allow you to live that lifestyle? Like you're running
wouldn't work at all. Like you'd have to like stop running to make that work you know. Or you just have to sacrifice and not
like to develop your talent to the full level and the running round. But for Sarah and I nice because we were both going after
the same thing the same lifestyle. I mean I feel like sometimes I was like you're constantly like eating healthy, sleeping a ton,
going to bed at like 8:30 at night, getting up at 7, taking afternoon naps and stuff. So it was a blessing for us because we got
spent so much time together. We're both literally like she's out training and then at home together. So it's a really cool season of
life. And even now still like I'm retired but my lifestyle hasn't shifted a whole lot. You know I don't take as naps in the
afternoon or sleep as much anymore. But we're still together all the time and I coach her. So I don't even out there when she's
running and only I'm on a bike now. It's only going to be alongside.
[00:11:11] Nice change of pace there. That's cool. Well in 2007 you won the Houston Half Marathon in a time of 59 minutes
and 43 seconds. The first American to break the one hour mark for a half marathon. And you still hold the American record for
the fastest half marathon. Was that the event that you had to record. That's so cool. So what was that race like?

[00:11:32] Yeah. That was you know telling the story of like running with the best guys in the world. That was kind of the first
time that that was an actual reality. I had competed at the World Championships in track and competed in Europe on the track.
But I was never really in the race like I can remember running five games against the best guys in the world and I'm like
watching on the jumbotron. There's Ching and I like on the other side of the track you know. So like this isn’t really running
with the best guys in the world. Maybe in the same race I'm not really the same race. But as I moved up to the longer stops
things just really started to click and see at the time when I ran that time 59:43. That was one of the top ten times like ever run
for that distance. So like now it's more commonplace to see a lot of guys under an hour. But at the time that was kind of their
territory so that was kind of the moment whereas woah like you have the vision for a long time you're kind of chasing the
vision. And then you have that moment where you realize it and you're in it and you're kind of like at the top of the mountain.
That was kind of the experience there.
[00:12:37] But it was the same as what you hear most athletes talk about their greatest performances. It was it felt really easy
you know I felt like I could have done another one afterwards. And you finished the race and you're like oh I can definitely run
faster than that. And then you know I never even got within a minute of that time after that. As an athlete you have those
mountaintop experiences. And with athletes I'm working with now I'm like guys like soak it in because you may think you can
run faster and you might. I hope you do. You know I hope I'm wrong. But even if you don't like let's make sure we enjoy this
moment for what it is because we don't know what the future holds.
[00:13:17] Exactly. Well just a couple months after that in April you placed 7th and the London Marathon and it was your first
ever marathon on 208 and the fastest debut marathon by an American. I mean that's pretty insane. Had you been planning on
doing marathons for a while? What made you kind of graduate to these longer distances?
[00:13:37] Yeah. There's actually the experience I was telling you about being on the track in Europe and watching guys finish.
That the moment where you know for a while as an athlete you're kind of developing. You don’t really know where your gifts
and talents really truly are. You know especially in the running realm you don't know how fast your foot speed is and that kind
of dictates a lot with the elite distance running. But it was at that time where I realized like 5 game I was not gonna be
competitive. So I need to be humble enough to move up even though I didn't necessarily want to. And then like I said it seems
like you moved up like things just really really clicked. And so I was actually training for my first marathon when I ran 59
minutes and a half marathon. So I just changed my training up and is running more than I had ever run before doing harder
workouts. And that's when things really really clicked in my body and took off.
[00:14:31] And I was planning on running the Los Angeles Marathon actually was my first one. And then Houston happened
and then the doors kind of opened for me to get to go to London. That was such a cool experience because I got to race against
guys like how they gave us slots. You know these are guys who were the greatest runners of all time in that era. And it was just
really surreal to be running next to them at mile 14 going across Tower Bridge. You know with all my heroes of running and
stuff. Another one of those moments were like this is what what I pictured you known when I was 13 on that couch.
[00:15:06] That’s so cool. So epic. I love it. You paint such a good picture of that. Well at that same year in November you won
the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the marathon in 209. I mean that's pretty insane. You just started running marathons that year
and you made the Olympic team. I mean what was that like? I mean I know you said you wanted to run against the best guys
in the world. Was the Olympics always part of that dream? Or did not just kind of come up as you ran these longer distances?
[00:15:33] Yeah yeah. That’s part of the dream you know. They still don't have a half marathon in Olympic. So if you're going
to run longer than 10K it has to be the marathon distance.

[00:15:43] So what was it like at the Olympics? I mean was it everything you dreamed of? Was it totally just for you kind of in
shock or at all? Like what was your race like? Was it what you expected or what you hoped for?
[00:15:56] Yeah. You know it lived up to its expectations in many ways like the hype being in the village like you know I'd
watch Cool Runnings a million times.
[00:16:06] I love that movie.
[00:16:08] Yeah. It’s so good. And you always wondering was it actually like Olympic Village and stuff you know. And like
that part of the experience was I remember like walking out of the closing ceremonies next to Yao Ming you know he's like
super tall who we're in China. And so like all the people are just going crazy on and stuff. So there is moments like that. Was
like wow this is like really really amazing experience and like I feel so honored to get to be here. But then in terms of you
know what I dreamed of as a kid I didn't necessarily have to win the gold medal or even podium. But I just really wanted to
have my best stuff on that day. You know like be the best version of myself be as fit as I'd ever been like. Like have my
Houston day but at the Olympic games like that's what I wanted the most you know. But what I've learned in sports is
sometimes like no matter how much you want it. No matter how well you prepare. No matter how good of a coach you have.
You have everything in place. Like sometimes things just don't click. Like I haven't figured it out completely you know.
[00:17:15] But I've certainly just experienced that it's like I didn't change anything up on the same person. I'm training the
same way. I'm eating the same way. I'm sleeping. Doing everything same. And having two very different results you know like
one just effortlessly floating through a race 6 months before that. And then 6 months later I'm just struggling in my fitness. So
that was kind of my story leading up to the race. My fitness wasn't quite as good as I wanted it to be. Training had been rocky
kind of up and down and just been kind of kind of struggling you know. So on starting line I was nervous but I still had like the
outside hope of trying to grab a medal you know. Like I just run the London marathon again for my second time and personal
best in 206 and finish 5th. And so you know those are the the best guys in the world we all go to London. So it’s like in
London. You know maybe I could pick up a couple more spots and grab a medal in Beijing.
[00:18:11] But that was him I my experience unfortunately you know. I wasn't at my best upon Bigfoot. But still such a great
experience to immediately grow through. I remember doing a warm up run the day before a marathon. We always just jog like
30 minutes, do some drills and strides. And during that time I like to sometimes do it by myself and just have a little
conversation with God and be like What do you have for today? You know like for tomorrow? Like what do you want to tell
me? And you know I was always like hoping you can give me some like verse about David and Goliath or something like that
you know. Or soaring on wings of eagles and effortlessly flying through the race. But you actually reminded me of this story
during that moments Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. Which there were the guys who were being thrown into a fiery
furnace. And the king because they wouldn't worship the king's idols. Nebuchadnezzar idols and this is in way back in the day.
And I just love their response to the King.
[00:19:11] They're like even if God doesn't show up we're not gonna bow down to worship. And I think that was really like the
word God had for me for my race the following day. Was like you need to set your heart in such a way. So even if you don't
perform how you hope dreams, planned it out, drew it up in your head. It's not going to change your heart towards me. Or even
like my heart towards myself you know. Like finding that I'm still a worth I'm still a value even if I don't have my best
performance. On the day when I want it more than anything else you know. I could order on one day be today. But how might
you respond if that's not the case. So it really helped me during that race. Nothing to help me because I found myself about
halfway into the Olympic marathon back way way back. So I went out really fast even though it’s super hot and humid in
Beijing. Now it's back in like 30th-60th I don’t remember what place I was in. It was way back and it's kinda pouting myself
like what's going on? I'm so frustrated and how come I'm so far back. You know these are the thoughts are gone through my

[00:20:18] And again I felt like God was gonna tell me like I want you to start encouraging people around you. Which is really
odd because in our sport that doesn't happen you know. Usually guys aren't cheering for each other when they're running which
is fine you know. I get it. But I just started to do that. I started just I’ll catch a guy and it's been okay good job man you're
doing great. Let's work together and try to catch a group in front of us. Rather say a couple of words. You know just try and
encourage them a little bit. But again it was like getting to my heart and it was making me get outside of myself. And think
about other people and trying to help and encourage other people. And as I did that I stepped out on that I found that I started
to gain courage. I started to feel better about my situation. I think it was because whenever you're internal and you're in a lot of
pain and suffering like you are in a marathon. The more internal you are the more you're aware of all this pain you know.
[00:21:11] I found thinking about other people other things I'm outside myself in things I'm able to push harder. Coz I'm not as
aware of the pain. Coz I found like whatever you focus on it's going to increase the sensation. So just really let me go outside
of myself and start encouraging some other people. And I started to work my way up and ended up finishing intense position.
Which still wasn't what I hoped for but it was the best that I could do on that day. And you know I'm still very proud of that
performance even though it wasn't everything I dreamed of.
[00:21:47] I totally get that. We had a guest on one of our first episodes is a performance scientist Dr. Ben Houltberg. And he
talks about purpose based identity and performance based identity. And just like what you were saying just having that purpose
beyond yourself makes such a big difference. You know for the people around you but also for you. That's really really cool.
You could walk away even though it wasn't maybe the finish you wanted like you walk away with that amazing experience. So
cool. So a year after Beijing you and your wife Sara co-founded the Hall Steps Foundation. I would love for you to tell us
about your foundation.
[00:22:22] Yeah. So this actually happened kind of in the wake of Beijing. Sara and I became spokespersons for Team World
Vision. And their goal for the Chicago Marathon that fall after the Olympics was to have about 500 runners come together.
Fundraise to bring clean water to a community in Zambia 90,000 people didn't have access to clean water. So we are just like
spreading the word about it like just trying to tells me people as we could. And just a part of that team. And so we have
opportunity after the Beijing Olympics to go to Zambia. And watch them like cut the ribbons of these boreholes that had just
been poured you know. And they had access to clean water for the first time in their life. And I'll never forget I was at a ribbon
cutting ceremony just like way out mistakes in some old tiny village. And this guy this village guy and they all speak English
there. It's like the business language you know so they learn in school. Which was really cool because I didn't think I'll talk to
anyone going over there. But he is telling me is like hey because you guys brought clean water to us like everyone in my
community their life expectancy is going to go up by 10 years.
[00:23:38] And that was kind of the moment for me where going back to my 13 year old self and hearing that like I'd been
given a gift to help other people. That was kind of moment like this is how you help other people through running. It's like I
was a part of a team of people that did some fundraising ran a race. And as a result now 90,000 people in Zambia are getting to
live 10 years longer. Like you're actually adding years to people's lives because you ran a race you know. And I was just such a
powerful moment for both me and Sara like I went back home and I'd start training. And I'd just be thinking about these kids
that I interacted with ran with over there. That are in tattered clothes which is the biggest smile on their face you know. I guess
a very interesting interaction whereas like I wanted to help them in terms of like health, wellness, school, education,
empowerment, all of that.
[00:24:32] But they also had something that like I think we're lacking here in the States which is a real sense of community.
You know it's like when things are tough over there like they have to rely on each other. And that just builds a really really
strong community. And as a result at least this is my opinion they're just super happy people. Like I hadn't seen Joy like that
anywhere else in the world. Despite such like amazing poverty you know. So were able to help on bringing clean water to

them. But they really challenged me to find joy in my life and find joy through community. So you know we came back home
from that trip and Sara and I knew we wanted to do more. And we knew we wanted to continue to support World Vision and
the work they're doing which is amazing work they're doing all over the world. But we also wanted to support other kind of
local organizations. And some of our own projects that we were excited about doing so we started the Hall Steps Foundation.
[00:25:30] And so it's basically set up the same as like Team in Training or something like that. Where you can run any race in
the U.S. you just go to our website thestepsfoundation.org sign up and create a fundraising page. And then every single dollar
that you fundraise for your race goes towards our projects so we're 100% volunteer run. So that's a really cool thing about our
organization is you know every single dollar is going towards the projects we're supporting. And we've gotten to support some
really cool projects along the way. Like we partner with one of my friends in Kenya we helped to build a health clinic in his
community that didn't have access to hospitals or health clinics. People have to take like buses for like 8 hours at a time. Like
his brother actually died of a snake bite that shouldn't have taken his life you know. But you just didn't have access to the
medicine he needed to to fix the problem.
[00:26:46] So we partnered with my friend Wesley Korir he's actually Boston Marathon Champion. And we built this health
clinic and now people in that community have access to meet their medical needs. Things like that. We love doing stuff with
empowerment as well. So we partner with Cuba leading microloans to women in developing countries. Help them start their
own businesses so that they can work themselves out of poverty. And then we're doing a lot in Ethiopia as well with mainly
with child care and trying to help them. Kind of get going a foster care system actually because they just closed down
international adoption which really kind of changed things in their country. They still have a ton of orphans in their country but
now they're trying to figure out how they can take care of all those orphaned kids within the country. So we're kind of
partnering with local organizations there to help bring those kids into families.
[00:27:31] That's awesome. So many great things that you guys are doing through your foundation I love it.
[00:27:37] At Hope Sports we know that you want to be the best athlete that you can be. And in order to do that, you train hard
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[00:28:44] The running side of things now I know in 2011 you set a new PR the Boston Marathon. You made the 2012
Olympic team like things were looking good. But then you had to drop out of the marathon at the London games around the 11
mile mark because of a hamstring injury. You've dealt with injuries you dealt with not feeling good. What was that like how did
you do that at the Olympic Games?
[00:29:06] Yeah. It was definitely like one of those surreal moments where you feel like you're in a movie or a dream like that
just really happened. I'd never dropped out of any race in my entire life you know. Like I never even stopped and walked in
any race and my entire life. So like that was never an option in my mind. But just having this sharp pain was out running and I
just decided after having a little conversation with God is better to live to fight another day. So you just stepped off the course
almost started running again just did it felt so wrong I was like this isn't right you know. Not at all what I was picturing
happening but I stepped off and it was hard you know. But I've been through so much discouragement and hard times before
that. It really kind of prepared me for that moment. So I was down as disappointed afterwards for a couple of days. But I like to

do something that actually my wife's kinda taught me. Like she allows herself to be really down to disappointed for a certain
amount of time. So it could be a day could be two days whatever she feels like she needs. And then after that it's like OK now
moving forward and like I'd grieve the loss now I’m moving forward.
[00:30:25] So I kind of did that you know I had a couple of days or maybe a couple weeks I don’t know exactly how long it
was. I was really down and bombed out. But then I started moving forward and the good thing about running is there's always
big races look forward to you. Whether it's the Boston marathon, in New York City Marathon, Chicago, London. You know
there's all these big great opportunities for runners to get to try and win a title. So I just kind of kept moving forward but we
kind of started this nasty string of injuries. So the hamstring thing started because when I was running actually training for the
2012 Olympic trials I developed plantar fasciitis on my foot. And so I had to just run through it coz there's like no instant cure
for plantar fasciitis like usually just last a while and then eventually get better. So I was running through it and just like very
small alteration of my stride caused an injury on the opposite side of my body. So with the hamstring and then I heard my
hamstring and then literally it was almost comical how ridiculous it was. I was always really hard didn't have a lot of injuries
before that. Then I tore my right quad and tore my left quads and I got all sacral stress fractures on my right side. And it was
just like this ridiculous string of like compensation injuries. So I learned a big lesson there about running through injuries and
how detrimental that can be to your body. I did eventually come out the other side of that were stopped getting hurt.
[00:31:59] But then I kind of started of struggle with just I call it extreme fatigue. So I'd been running at that point for 16 17
years and running like 100 miles a week see running like 15 miles a day. And that's a long time to be running that much and
not just easy running. It's all a pretty high quality not all but we have three high quality workouts for weeks. Just demanded a
ton of my body and it is kind of at that point where my body is like there's nothing on the left side. So I'm free to start slowing
down and start giving back to your body. So after about that it was 4 year time and you cramps at my injury at the London
Olympics all the way. So I was training for the 2016 on big trials and still just like having really bad fatigue issues. And I tried
everything I could think to try. I work with a whole bunch different coaches and tried mixing up my nutrition. Tried rest. I tried
everything and I think to try nothing was working. My body was just clearly like tired and fatigue can ready to for me to get
back to it. So that's when I ultimately ended up deciding to retire from running. And I kind of move on into this next season of
[00:33:15] Was that a hard transition? Or were you just kind of ready at that point?
[00:33:20] Yeah. I was always nervous about the day I was gonna retire you know. Because like running had been my craft, my
passion, everything for 20 years you know. So I didn't know how’s gonna react when I hung up my shoes. But with how it
ended and just having it be kind of a long slow gradual four year process of coming to this realization. That I'd gotten
everything out of my body and there's nothing else there allowed me to make the decision. And actually feel a kind of a sense
of relief with it which I was surprised by I wasn't expecting to feel relief. But it kind of felt like I could finally look back on my
career and be thankful for what I got to experience and the performances I did have. And then stops striving to try to get back
to those you know I could finally just like fully appreciate it. And then also during that time and actually while I was writing
my book kind of powerful realization came to me that my journey wasn't all about me you know. And now like I needed to
take the things I learned in that season in my life and pull them into my next season of life. Which is in writing, speaking,
coaching, and trying to help other people along on their own journeys that they're on.
[00:34:43] Since retiring you've transformed your body gaining what like 40 pounds of muscle? I'd love to hear about this.
[00:34:51] Yes. It's funny cause I feel like there's a big theme in my life where I don't enjoy doing something and then it kind
of becomes like my passion in crafts. So before like I do weight training for running but never upper body. I just always try to
get through it as fast as I could because it just wasn't specific for running really. Like I didn't see the correlation between lifting

more weight running faster. Which was a wrong way of seeing it in hindsight. But all that to say like I didn't enjoy the weight
or not. And so when I retired from running I retired at about 3 1/2 years ago has 5'10” and 127 lbs which was too light for me. I
just needed to find something to get back to my body. And running is so cattle bollock in nature just strips your body of
everything it doesn't need to run fast. So I kind of got into that weightlifting as a way to give back to my body as a way to build
it up and make it strong. And then also to just because I was curious like any time I'd be around some big strong person I was
always really curious. Just like know what that would feel like to be big and strong.
[00:36:02] So I kind of started the journey and it was really really fun. Because one of the things I love about sports is seeing
results and seeing progress. And I wasn't seeing that in running for 4 years and then finally with the lifting. Like I was so bad at
it I had nowhere to go. So I was encourage people like if you want to find a sport that's fun try something you're really bad at.
And then it's me so much fun coz it gonna grow and get better and better and better. So that's kind of the journey I've been on
it's just fun. You know the other day I was squatting I hit three 90 for the first time. And it's just fun to see growth. It's fun to
get underweight you could just failed at it like 100 times in a row. And then finally be able to give it up is just such an amazing
sensation. It kind of feels that I need to see personal growth and to see physical growth in my body.
[00:37:00] I love your. I love your attitude. I love how you always try stuff that you really don't want to do. And so cool. So
cool. There’s so many things that I just love and admire about you and your wife. But there's one especially that's near and dear
to my heart because I'm also an adoptive mom. I have girls from China and Ethiopia. And I know you and Sara adopted four
girls from Ethiopia. And I wanna know all the things. What made you want to adopt? Why Ethiopia? What was that process
like? And how in the world did you survive going from childless to parents of four girls overnight?
[00:37:32] Yeah. I love telling the story because again like I just didn't see adoption at all growing up. So it wasn't so much like
I was opposed to it. It just wasn't on my grid so I didn't have any desire to adopt until I met Sara. But then Sara's story is very
much the opposite of that where there is adoptive kids and your extended family. And she'd been around it seen it and always
wanted to adopt ever since she was a little girl. So she actually mentioned it on our first date. And I was like oh well I've never
even thought about that you know. So it's kind of like when the ball started turning on my mind started considering it. And then
you know fast forward years and years later after we're married and training professionally. One of the things I loved about
running was you got to train all over the world. And go to beautiful locations to train and train with just you really inspiring
incredible people from every different culture. And so we would go to Kenya and train. We ended up going to Ethiopia to train.
[00:38:34] And there was just something about Ethiopia that just kind of grabbed us and gripped us. Where we just fell in love
with the people and the culture and the country and this food and the music just kind of everything about it. The running was
fabulous. So just kind of like really grabbed us by one of the things that also grabbed us was being on the streets in Addis and
driving around. And seeing all these kids out on the streets orphans and in tattered clothes and shining shoes. And kids would
come up to me and asked to shine my shoes for like 10 cents. And they'd be so stoked if I gave them like equivalent of a dollar
you know. So that really pulled on our heart and we're like with our foundation you know we're all about just taking our step
you know. It's like we can't force other people to take their step but if everyone chooses to take their own personal step we can
see big change and big results. So our step was moving into the adoption phase of our life where we felt ready to take on
Parenthood. And so being in Ethiopia and seeing orphans and having opportunity to adopt from there. We decided we'd try and
adopt an infant just one in fact was our original plan. And so we're number like 76 on a waitlist it was going to be a couple of
years before we'd have our our infant.
[00:39:55] And then what happened is we're overtraining in Ethiopia and we went visited the orphanages. And we noticed that
there is all these older children in the orphanages that were waiting for families. And so I was like this doesn't make sense I'm
like number seventy six on the waitlist all these kids are waiting for families. And after it was the face to face interaction that
really broke my heart and made me decide to adopt older children. Because after meeting the kids, playing with the kids,
hangout with the kids I was like man I take anyone's these kids home you know. So we went home we changed up all of our
paperwork how to change agencies even. And became aware of our daughters through like a friend in Facebook page is kind

like around about what they're really looking for a family for these four biological sisters. They'd been looking for a family for
3 years weren't able to find a family. And they're talking about maybe sending two of them with one family in like Australia
and to another family in Italy or something like that.
[00:41:02] And so you know coming from a big family I'm in the middle of five kids is like you know separate siblings like
you know. They've already been through so much and they don't need to lose each other. So you know we just felt kind of love
in our heart for our girls. And I always like to tell people like there is a very real fear that was involved with adopting and
mainly a fear of my own inadequacy. You know like for example our social worker. She wouldn't even approve us to adopt the
4 girls because she didn't believe we could do it. So you talked about something that shake your own confidence you know.
But instead of following that fear I just followed like the love that God had put in my heart for my girls. And I knew if I had
that love in my heart that's what I needed. I chose to follow the path of loving when I'm at my best and making decisions based
on love not based on fear. And so that's what we did is a leap of faith you know. But it's just been such an incredible road. The
girls have blessed us so much.
[00:42:08] And you know actually going from 0 to 4 was I think it a lot of ways easier than like the normal round that you
could take. Because so like for example all we knew previous to this was just like Sara and I in empty house you know. And
then our normal just changed just once. It changed from 0 kids to 4 kids. It didn't change like four separate times or is like
you're getting used to 1 kid and you get used to 2 and then 3 and then 4. It's like every time you kind of shift your normal
there's always like a stirring and shaking that's like kind of like initially hard you know. But we just kinda have like one. One
and done. So in a lot of ways I feel like I'm going to cheat the system. And also our kids when we adopted them were 5, 8, 12
and 15. So I've never changed a diaper I've gotten woken up in the middle of the night maybe like twice in my life. So a lot of
ways like I have it pretty easy like our kids are already like almost like you know babysit each other, home and stuff. So we
could go out for training and stuff and they would be totally fine.
[00:43:22] Now you also have a new book out this month as if you're not busy enough with those four girls and it's called Run
the Mile You're In: Finding God in Every Step. Please tell us about it.
[00:43:32] Yeah. I'm really excited to share the story you know like Tom Dean at Zondervan. He's a runner and he had
approached me about writing a book you know years and years ago. But I still like very much in the middle of it telling them
my story. And then once I retired he reached back out again and the timing just felt right you know. I felt a sense of closure
with that chapter of my life. And I felt ready to share this story with people. And I found it to be a really therapeutic process for
me to go through to sit down and write every morning. It's kind of like make sense of my entire career and try and pull out all
the biggest lessons from my career and share those with other people. Just in the hope of helping people on their journey. Like
I kind of wrote it from the perspective of how’s my 13 year old self getting in to sports. Like what things would I wanna
become aware of. And like I remember being super curious like what does it take to get to the Olympics you now. And so like
a lot of this is like my story of like learning what it does take to get to the Olympics. Or just for you to develop your own
potential and your hobby, your craft, as a dad, at work. Like just for you to become the best version of yourself. And these
were just like kinda lessons that I've been learning in all my journey and continue to learn as I continue on my own journey.
[00:44:58] I love it. It sounds so good. Where can we grab a copy of it?
[00:45:02] Yes you can get it on Amazon and then also Barnes and Noble. And whatever else fine books are sold I believe.
[00:45:12] All right. Run the Mile You're In: Finding God in Every Step. Well Ryan where else can we follow you online to
just continue to be encouraged by you? To learn more about the Hall Steps Foundation. All of the thing.

[00:45:22] Yeah. So you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram my handles @ryanhall3 on both of those. And then our
foundation is thestepsfoundation.org And then my wife now we also have a website ryanandsarahall.com So those are all good
places to track us down.
[00:45:41] Awesome. Ryan, thank you so much for coming on the podcast for just sharing your absolutely incredible story
encouraging us and just inspiring us.
[00:45:50] My pleasure. Thanks for having me Laura.
[00:45:53] Wow. There is just so much powerful stuff in there. I know I've said that before but these athletes are just sharing
truth bomb after truth bomb. What I love most are the two strategies that Ryan shared that got him through difficult moments
in his life. The first, is solidifying his identity the regardless of the results he still has value and worth in the world. And
second, is turning his gaze outward. Remember when he ran a marathon and encouraged other people along the way? Not only
is that an incredible blessing for those other people but in turn it shifted Ryan's own attitude and improved his morale and his
results. Sometimes we can get stuck in a rut and just by lifting up our eyes and looking to those around us that need help it
frees us. And all the work with the Hall Steps Foundation is so compelling. It has me wanting to strap on a pair of running
shoes and raise money to 5K. Maybe that'll be a great warmup before I go dive in the pool. You should definitely check it out
too and get involved. How awesome would it be to have a group of hope sports listeners mobilized to do amazing work in the
world just by running. Drop a comment on our Instagram or tag us at your next 5K. We want to shout it from the rooftops. And
if you want support in ways that you can grow as a competitor to overcome obstacles or to rock that 5K? Head on over to
LauraWilkinson.com/performance to grab my free guide 5 things that you can do today to become a more confident
competitor. Again that's LauraWilkinson.com/performance
[00:47:20] Thanks to Ryan for joining us today and I hope you tune in next week for our chat with Olympic Cyclist and hope
sports founder Guy East. As he shares about his journey through professional cycling. What caused him to hang up his bike for
a few years and what eventually led to the conception of Hope Sports. Be sure to hit that subscribe button because you do not
want to miss that episode on behalf of Hope Sports I'm Laura Wilkinson. Thanks again for tuning in and have a great week.
This podcast is produced by Evo Terra and Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete
archives please visit HopeSport.org

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About This Episode

There is some debate about when it was discovered that Lauryn Williams was fast. Her father claims that it was when she spent an entire day at the science center in Pittsburg racing a hologram of the legendary Olympic gold medalist Florence Joyner until she was actually able to beat it. For her mother, it was when she could beat their family dog home after playing outside. Either way, they knew that she could run -- fast. But Lauryn didn’t always have aspirations of being a track & field athlete. She participated in karate, gymnastics, softball, basketball, and ballroom dancing throughout her childhood. While focusing on academic college scholarships during her senior year of high school, she stumbled upon athletic scholarships and thought that she had a good shot of snagging one. She ended up attending the University of Miami, confiding, “if I had to run for college funding, I might as well do it where the weather was nice!” Though her decision may have hinged more on climate than programming, she recalls being incredibly well cared for, honored, and championed as an athlete at the school. “The coaching staff and athletic department always did what was in my best interest as a person, in addition to an athlete,” she says.

At 20 years old, she ran the second fastest time in the world for the 100 meters, was the fastest American women, and won the NCAA championships. Although, being a professional athlete wasn’t anywhere on her radar at the time, her success catapulted her into the Olympic Trials and into the pressure to win big for her country. Her hometown did fundraisers to get her parents to Athens and it was as if the entire world watched her step up to the line of the 100 meter race. She ran a great race and was proud to walk away from that event with a silver medal. It wasn’t time to relax yet, however, as the 4x100 meter relay was only days away. The four women on the team were several of the fastest in the world and together, they easily had a shot at not only a gold medal, but a world record. In the end, perhaps it was division in their training or a lack of chemistry or negativity that chipped away at their confidence, but whatever the reason, the baton failed to be passed inside of the allotted zone and the team was disqualified.

“I felt like I not only left my team down, but I let the whole country down,” says Lauryn of the race. Set to receive the baton from Marion Jones, Lauryn was personally a part of the botched handoff and the headlines, reporters, and fans didn’t let her forget it. “It was the first time that I was subjected to the anger and hatred of others. And it went far beyond just the performance,” she recalls. After repeatedly seeing her name alongside words such as “failure” and “let-down”, she had to dig herself out of the pit of self-doubt and insecurity; she had to not internalize what everyone was saying about her. With the support of her family and close community, she says that she arrived at the mindset that “it’s about who I believe I am.”

Putting the Olympics behind her, she returned to training and competing professionally. An opportunity for redemption presented itself at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing where she qualified to run the 100 meter individual event as well as the 4x100 meter relay. She took fourth place in the individual race behind three women from Jamaica and had to bounce back from that disappointment to head into the relay. But the nightmare repeated itself for the American women. The baton was again dropped during the transfer; once more the team headed home empty handed, devastated, and in the merciless hands of the media. “I just wanted to hit the rewind button,” says Lauryn. It seemed that one mistake was forgivable, but definitely not two. Despite her rich faith and strong friends and teammates, Lauryn struggled to maintain her confidence.

Shortly after those 2008 Olympic games, her father passed away. Still reeling from the disappointment of the games, her pain was only worsened by not having one of her biggest encouragers on the sideline. The grief didn’t fully hit her until May of the following year when, out of instinct, she picked up her phone and called her dad. As the phone rang and rang, it finally dawned on her that he was gone and she could never again be comforted by his counsel or encouraged by his voice.

“I was faced with questions about what life was really about and why I was running circles around a track,” says Lauryn. She had equated her identity, success, and influence with her speed, but losing her father brought her face to face with deep doubts about her purpose. She took 2010 off from track to find out who she was without running, to discover the way she contributed to society and community when she isn’t simply an athlete. “During that year I spent a lot of time talking to people about how they got to where they were,” explains Lauryn. She was on a mission to discover how the everyday person navigated they journey, and she ascertained that there was no such thing as a linear path. “You get to write your story. You get to decide who you are,” she says. She learned that the journey towards purpose is one of evolution, not destination or definition. In various seasons elements are added into our lives, just as others fall away. She found peace in the realization that she wouldn’t be an elite sprinter forever, but also that she wasn’t done yet.

She returned to competition in 2012 with an entirely different mindset. “I felt more grateful to those who were around me,” Lauryn recalls. Her eyes had been opened to the specific journeys and purpose of her coach, trainers, nutritionist, and even the volunteers at every event. “So many people invested their time in my success,” says Lauryn. And she started taking time to thank them. Although she didn’t qualify for the individual event in London, they still thought highly enough of her that she was placed on the 4x100 meter relay team despite her perceived failures in 2004 and 2008. Most of the team was brand new and her maturity, experience, and composure grounded the team. Because of her negative experiences and mistakes, she was able to emphasize the importance of honesty, communication, and trust within the relay team; things that she knew mattered just as much as speed. Lauryn got to be a part of the semi-final race that secured the American team a spot in the finals where the women went on to break a 27 year old world record, and finally win the gold medal. It took time, however, for Lauryn to fully accept the medal. Although she was a part of getting the team to the final, she didn’t run in the actual race and initially felt quite fraudulent owning that victory. But with time, she matured enough to see the intangible effects that she had on the team that led to generating the kind of atmosphere from which world class teams are born.

After her final season of running came to a close, she ran into Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones at an airport and they talked a bit about the bobsled career that Lolo pursued after retiring from track. One month later, Lauryn found herself at the Olympic trials for bobsled. It was a steep learning curve over the next six months, but of that time she says, “I realized that I had nothing left to lose, and only things to gain.” She spent several months training with various partners in a round robin style and the final pairings wouldn’t be decided until ten days before the event. Thanks to her experience in 2012, she knew that her contribution wasn’t limited to tangible influence. No matter the outcome, she wanted Team USA to send the best six competitors to Sochi even if that put her in a supporting role. A week and a half before the event she was paired with Elana Meyers Taylor and the two went on to win silver in the bobsled final. “The best part was that I just never saw the opportunity coming,” says Lauryn. Participating and winning in a collaborative event was both gratifying and redeeming. In addition to winning a medal, Lauryn made history as the first American woman--and one of only five athletes ever--to medal in both the summer and winter Olympics.

Satisfied with her athletic career, Lauryn has recently turned her attention to serving athletes in other ways. She started a financial planning business called Worth Winning that aims to help young athletes optimize their finances, set markers beyond competition, and define their values in a concrete way. So many young athletes don’t fit into the typical box for financial planning; they are more tech savvy, on the go, and goal oriented. In addition, she has her own podcast  with guests who discuss their own financial journeys in hopes that listeners can shed any embarrassment or shame in feeling inept at managing money. Her knowledge isn’t limited to the financial sector, though. Her book, The Oval Office, will be releasing this year and is full of information for professional athletes about how to navigate the world of elite sports in a really practical way. From working with agents to wading through endorsement offers to signing with teams, she guides readers through the world that she had to uncover on her own. And, true to her own journey, Lauryn encourages others to write their own story, believe in themselves, and learn to view failures as building blocks for their future. Be sure to following Lauryn on Instagram and Twitter, as well as on her website and podcast.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_toggle title="Read Episode Transcript" admin_label="Transcript" _builder_version="3.21.1" saved_tabs="all"]


[00:00:06] Welcome to the Hope Sports podcast. I'm your host. Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson. Each week I have the

privilege of chatting with a different elite athlete about how they navigated their rise in sports where they find their purpose

and how they're contributing in amazing ways to the world today. You're in for a real treat today as Olympian Lauren Williams

is joining us. I can't easily tag a sport alongside her Olympian status because Lauren is actually the first American woman to

win a medal in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. And she's one of only five individuals to ever do so. She race track and

field and three Olympics and just when she thought she was retiring she turned right around and raced bobsled in the Winter

Olympics. But her journey is about so much more than that she has walked through heartbreaking defeats and emerged so

incredibly grateful optimistic and authentic. She's a savvy business owner a compassionate leader and an all-around

inspiration. You are gonna be so glad you tuned in today. Let's dive on it.

[00:01:04] Lauren Williams thank you so much for coming on Hope Sports podcast today.


It is so good to be here. I can't wait to share my story.


Well for those listening to that may not know a whole lot about you. Can you kind of walk us through how you got your start in



[00:01:18] Sure. So it all started way back in the 1980s. Now I'm born and raised between. I'm born in Pittsburgh raised

between Pittsburgh and Detroit and started running track when I was nine years old. And depending on who you ask between

my mother and father you'll get two entirely different stories about how I got my start. My dad will tell you that we were at the

Carnegie Science Center in Pennsylvania and there was a blow Joe hologram. And I do know this story to be true. I remember

the hologram and I remember raising the hologram but I stayed there all day didn't do anything else I didn't see anything else in

the science center. And I did beat the hologram a few times now. Clearly, she could have been set at a world record pace. But.


[00:02:03] For you are really impressive 9 year old one to the other.


[00:02:06] right or I was a really impressive 9year girl. But that wasn't quite as fast as I got older. And then my mom tells a

story of me getting home faster than the family German shepherd. And I do also remember going outside and playing with the

dog and you know her kind of calling us when it was this time for us to come in. But whether or not I got home faster than my

dog. You know I'm inclined to believe I did. But.


[00:02:31] That you're a racer from the beginning huh?


[00:02:33] Exactly. I always love running. I always love being outside. You know competing and you know it was kind of a

tomboy if you will.


[00:02:40] Did you do any other sports or was it always just track and running?


[00:02:44] Everything. In fact, I didn't think that I was gonna be like a star track athlete. It wasn't a goal or aspiration of mine

at all. I did karate and ballroom dancing. I did gymnastics. Softball.


[00:02:53] Ballroom dancing.


[00:02:55] I know right.


[00:02:56] Wow! Nice.


[00:02:58] I didn't make the volleyball team. I still kind of have a chip on my shoulder about that.


[00:03:03] You can't have it all Lauren. Can’t have it all.


[00:03:04] Can’t have it all. That's true. Basketball is the thing I love the most though. And that's what I thought I was going to

do and I wanted to do. But sitting on the bench on senior night in high school my best friend got her. And then finally got to go

in when she got her in the fourth quarter. Let me know that I was probably not going to be a basketball player beyond my high

school days.


[00:03:25] Also how did you find herself at the University of Miami?


[00:03:29] Well when I started to get these letters in the mail to ask me you know if I was interested in attending this school or

that school. I got really excited because I didn't know that that was actually an option initially. I was really working hard

toward getting academic scholarship, moneys and keep my grades up. And then I realized there was this thing called athletic

scholarships and I was like oh like this could work. And I'm just sorting through the different options. I decided that if I needed

to go to school and it was gonna be my obligation to run track as a way to kind of pay for my education that I had better do it

in a place that had warm weather so that I'd feel good about going to practice every day and meeting. At 17 that's all the wiser

that I could be it was a warm place, outdoors and I went on my college visit there it was October. And so got a sunburn in

Miami in October and got back to Pennsylvania for school and it was the first frost.


[00:04:23] Oh wow.


[00:04:24] And I was like oh like sunburn in October or snow in October.


[00:04:30] I think that’s a wise move. Well, you competed for track at Miami. You graduate in 2004 and you were even

inducted into the iron arrow Honor Society of the university's highest honor. Tell us about your college experience.


[00:04:43] It was amazing. There's no place I would rather go to school. There was not a day that I regretted choosing the

University of Miami the way that they looked after me in a family sort of way. We got there and the athletic department was a

small tight-knit family. My coach to this day I can say has always done what was in my best interest. And that you know

always thought about what I needed and what was going to be best for me as a person and in addition to me as an athlete. And

the university as well kind of correct was the word was rallied around me when I started to get some fame and stardom. And

you know made sure that they did everything they could to help me as well. And so I'm just really appreciative for the

opportunity to have gone to that school to have been supported the way that I was. All the way up to the president of the

university. Yeah. It was a really really good opportunity.


[00:05:37] Well that's cool. So after you graduated you made it to the 2004 Athens Olympics that was your first Olympic

Games right?


[00:05:44] Mm-hmm.


[00:05:44] And you got a silver there and one hundred meters you became one of the darlings of the games. But at that same

games and the 4 by 100 your team was disqualified because of the baton pass. Can you kind of walk us through? I'm sure there

were so many ups and downs to that Olympics not only just because it's your first Olympics too and then all of that like. Walk

us through that.


[00:06:03] Yeah there was a lot. I was it was 2004 I was 20 years old I was now dealing with this idea of becoming a

professional athlete. That was not something I was necessarily on my radar earlier in the year. I was just trying to win the

NCAA title. And you know not only did I win the NCAA’s but I ran the second fastest time in the world. And it was like oh

you're now the fastest American that we have heading into the Olympic trials. So you better get on your big girl bridges and

hop to it because there's sponsorship opportunities and there is a lot to sort through. As a junior in college 20 years old and now

it is being the Olympic year. I get on this Olympic team.

[00:06:43] I had to figure out how to get my family over there. I didn't have any money yet my family didn't have a lot of

money. So there were fundraisers going on and things like that to sort through. My dad got to Athens and got sick. There was

just a lot going on, to say the least. But then in addition to that look at the actual performance. And I think I did a really good

job of kind of bundling my nerves together and performing well earning that silver medal. But then we had to go and get

ourselves. I had to go and get collaborative with the other sprinters and work on this relay and it did not go very well at all.

You're right. And the thing that's really hard about it even in thinking about it and reminiscing about it today is that we were

easily a world record team. If we could have gotten that baton around the track in the way that the potential we had. There's no

doubt about it that we not only would've been gold medalists but Olympic world record holders or world record holders now.

[00:07:45] And yeah just negative chemistry you know the coaches not really paying attention to what we were saying as

athletes. And you know feeling like they knew what was best for us even in the midst of us saying that you know what about

this what about that. All those things and all that negative chemistry came together and we did not get the baton round trip.


[00:08:09] How did you. Did you guys get a lot of flak for that?


[00:08:12] A whole lot of flak for that. You know I was receiving the baton from the infamous Marion Jones I was this new

rookie. Even though I had you know they said I just want a medal and you think that that would create some stability or

credibility. It did not seem to create very much at all. And we were the crappy Americans that didn't do their job. And you

know there were all kinds of headlines on failure. And you know how could we screw this up sort of deal and whose fault it

was and lots of blame game. Yeah, it was a really tough time.


[00:08:46] Well how did you. How do you handle that? As a 20 year old thinking about going professional now also to your

thrust into the spotlight with a medal and with this failure. Like how did you handle that?


[00:08:59] It was a lot. You're right. Because I got a really good high of earning a medal and not have expected that at all early

in the year. But then I got this really really big low of you let the whole country down. And you let your teammates down. And

I was the actual person that was part of the botched handoff. You know because I score runners so you know three other people

could have done perfectly and one person got it wrong. And you know I could have been on the done perfectly part of that but I

was on the wrong part of that.

[00:09:26] So that was the first time I was subject to the opinions of others and you know just even the anger and hatred that

others have just for us for sport in general. So you know, you stupid girl, how could you and you're an idiot. And you know

things that just went far beyond the actual performance that I think we're very unnecessary. And just negative fans that you

have to deal with. And digging yourself out of the idea that this is not who I am. This does not define me and what those

people are saying about me is not the thing that is most important. It's about who I believe I am you know how I decide to

bounce back from this catastrophe. And the way that I move forward that's going to build me and make me a stronger person.


[00:10:16] So those next four years you went pro. I'm guessing at that point you did kind of become professional. You made

another Olympic team in 2008 and again it seems like it was kind of a mixed bag. I mean you got fourth in the individual but

that's you know short of the medals had three Jamaican runners that were in front of you. And then in the relay again like you

were the anchor and there was a mix up in the semifinals. And your teammate dropped the baton and like you had to pick it up

and you guys finished but you got queued. Because you had to run outside of the lane in order to pick up the baton. Like I

found a quote that you had about this that I just thought was so well said that I would love you to talk on. You said it's a pretty

big deal when you're the person that was accountable for the demise of an opportunity. Not only for us to win a gold medal but

to possibly break a world record because we had to really fast teams. Both of those years and I felt very alone at that moment.

Like how. I mean I know you said you've got a fine figure out that this doesn't define you but I mean it happened again. And

like how do you have people speaking into you or you isolated? Like what did it look like walking out those days afterward?


[00:11:21] You know I'm very fortunate to have a really good team around me. And have a really good set of friends to kind of

keep me lifted up in moments like that. But it's definitely really tough even despite my faith and belief to just walk away and

kind of let that roll off your shoulders. You know you work so hard. You want to do well for not just yourself but for those that

you're competing with. You do want to represent your country to the best of your ability. And at that moment you feel like you

feel that all of those things and you just want to hit the rewind button. You're like Why is there not a rewind somewhere.

[00:12:00] But yeah working through it just takes a little bit of time and takes you know sticking to this idea that you know

some negative things are going to happen but these things are something to build on. They're not something to continue to hold

you down or they're not something to kind of wallow in and stay there. So I'd say like yeah do I walk through the valley of the

shadow of death. I always tell people in speeches and things that's like it's walkthrough. It doesn't say like stop and set up camp

there. Doesn't say go hang out in the valley of the shadow.


[00:12:34] That's so good.


[00:12:36] So just giving yourself those constant reminders that yeah it stinks. But keep going.


[00:12:43] Did you keep going after Beijing? Because I know you finished your masters and then you took a whole year off in

  1. So did you keep training kind of after and then take a break or what how did that play out?


[00:12:53] Yeah. So my dad passed away in 2008 shortly after those games so to add insult to injury. He passed away in that

year and it was just a little bit tough to digest. It was May of the following year 2009 when it really kind of hit me. And I think

you know people grieve differently so often. And you never really know what it's going to mean. Or what it's going to feel like

for you when you lose someone that's very close to you. And you know I was just kind of be-bopping along and pretending as

if nothing had happened. And I went to call him I was on my way to practice in 2009 and picked up the phone and like you

know doubt it. Was like waiting for it to ring and then I realized like oh I can't call someone who's dead.

[00:13:42] And it kind of just like splitting me into like a spiraling few months of you know the actual real grieving process.

And wondering you know like what is life all about anyway. Who am I outside of running up and down this track? And you

know getting these accolades. And you know being judge or feeling as if I'm judged so harshly. Or so it was with so much

weight by the world because of my ability to run up and down the track. And you know you meet people and you know doctors

and lawyers and other people that are contributing to society. And it's like what does this mean? What am I contributing by

running up and down this track?

[00:14:20] And so I took that year off in 2010 to really just kind of try to find that answer for myself you know who am I

outside of this. Because I'm not finding that I'm anything other than an athlete. And I really. I know there's more but I don't

know what else I am and I want to take time to figure that out. And what I did during that all fear was spent a lot of time

talking to other people about you know how they got where they were. So there's a young lady that owns a hotel. And how do

you come to own a hotel? And her story was just you know all sorts of different things. And she didn't go to college for hotel

ownership. And then get out of school and work in a hotel and then become a hotel owner you know.

[00:14:58] It was a very very winding wavy story. And then you realize that you know you're not you know there's no linear

path to anything that you're doing. And you get to write your story. You get to decide who you are and what you want to be in.

And there's nothing that you can't do if you set your mind to it. And it's not just in saying that about sport it's about saying that

in life and deciding. Then what do you want to do? What do you want to set your mind to? And so that's kind of what was

happening for me in the 2010 year with me figuring all that out.


[00:15:30] I love that. And what did you find out? Who are you? What did you discover during that time? I’ve loaded question

I know.


[00:15:39] Right. Exactly. I found out that who I am is ever evolving. That from one day to the next I am growing into who I'm

going to be. And that there doesn't have to be a set definition on that. I think that's one of the things we're always trying to fit

ourselves into a box. Wears the appropriate label that I'm supposed to be wearing right now. And there is no one thing that you

are you know. Like if you went through you could say you know a woman, dog lover, wife you know. And the list goes on of

all these different things you know. Law and order lover, podcaster, a financial planner but you don't need to fit into a box. And

for one day it makes one of those things my drop off and somebody else might be added to the mix. Each and every day is a

process of like you know being the best me that I can be. It's not really about you know fitting into anyone else's box or

creating boxes for myself.


[00:16:36] So good. And so what made you in 2011 return to competition?


[00:16:42] I just knew that I wasn't done yet. You know I just I decided like you said that though this is not who I am in its

entirety. That it is a part of who I am. Track and field. And that I had more to give. I had more that I wanted to accomplish. I

had plenty of potentials inside. And that I wanted to go after reaching my full potential. And I wanted to really like walk away

by saying I have left it all on the track. And so I went back to the sport with that as the intention. And I did have a completely

different mindset when I think when I return the sport. Knowing that that was not like said the end all be all. And though I

didn't know what was coming next. That the end was closer than I was closer to the end than I was to the beginning. And that I

had better make the most of these opportunities.

[00:17:34] So I think my attitude changed quite a bit. I was a lot more grateful to those that I was around for their contribution

to you know me being able to compete. So you don't realize sometimes or you know because we're athletes and you know I'd

do an individual sport. It's a lot of me thinking about me. But the number of hours that someone else has to spend for me to be

able to reach my full potential. My coach has to write a workout. She has to watch the film. She has to show that practice with

me you know travel and be away from her family. And the way Coach does the same thing. You know the nutritionist is doing

similar things. And so really just like the kind of tuning into all that was around me and all that I had to be grateful for. And all

those people were pouring into me.

[00:18:16] I was a lot more aware and a lot more focused on showing gratitude and appreciation for my ability to be able to

compete. So I'd get to a track meet and remember to thank the volunteers. Because a lot of track and field is volunteer oriented.

And you know where they said busy Russian or we're mad at them because they telling us. We can't go over here and we need

to warm up over there. And you know it's like these are real people and take a moment to be present at the moment and realize

that. And I think it just created like set new energy for me as I return a sport.


[00:18:51] That's so cool. And so how did that I guess change things? Because you did make another Olympic team in 2012.

Like, walk us through what this new attitude? This new kind of outlook on life. Like how did that affect your games in



[00:19:06] I think it helped quite a bit because you know part of that story is I didn't make the Olympic team in my individual

event I made it only part of the relay. And so you know it's a tough pill to swallow. Initially that you didn't make it for your

individual event you know you could have been left at home but. And despite my failures you know 0-4 we dropped the baton,

0-8 we dropped the baton. Despite both of those being the situation and me being directly involved in both of those situations

they still thought enough of me to bring me as part of the relay. They thought that I had enough experience. They valued the

experiences that I had and wanted me to share that because most of the other team was brand new. They'd never been on an

Olympic team before. So here they are with this opportunity to be a part of the relay but they don't have any experience on this

stage. And I have not just experience but experience in the worst kind of way.

[00:20:00] So I can tell you exactly what to do to avoid ending up in the situation that I ended up in. And you know maturing

to a point to understand that has value. It was a really big part of the puzzle for me. Knowing that you know there's something

and being able to explain to them why we should not go about it this way. Why our chemistry needs to be really great. Why we

need to communicate with one another. Because that negative energy that we took on the track in 0-4 in 0-8 definitely played a

role in our failure. And I think you know that it was really important to contribute to our success in 2012.


[00:20:36] Yeah I would say it’s successful. I mean I think our leadership and your wisdom that you learn along the way

obviously helped you guys walked away with a gold medal. Like what did that getting that gold medal means to you?


[00:20:50] I would say at the moment like you said it's been a process of me maturing to understanding and really getting

meaning from the metal. But at the moment I wasn't ready to accept. I felt really embarrassed and ashamed like you said the

way that I just described the medal to you now is where I've evolved to understanding. Like what my contribution was and

why it was valuable. But initially I felt kind of fraudulent. I felt like I didn't earn that medal. So the way that goes is there's six

of us that get to go as part of the relay. And two of us competed in only the first round while the other two are resting because

they were also running the open hundred meters. So I contributed in the first round which is an important thing because if you

don't get it around in the first round there is no second round.


[00:21:34] Right.


[00:21:35] But you know the actual group that won the gold medal ran the final. Broke the world record. You know I wasn't on

that team. And so I felt a little bit weird initially to say that I was an Olympic gold medalist when I knew I didn't do the final

part of the race. I felt a little weird to call myself a world record holder when I was not actually on the track and you know

doing my part to contribute there. But as like I said I started to think about like the contributions. And you know having talks

with others. And you know just realizing how different that games was than the others. And you know like one of the girls

coming up to me later and saying you know thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me. You know it was really

frustrating when this happened or whatever and you helped me understand it. I realized that that was valuable and that was a

contribution and that helped her be able to compete hard to the best of her ability.


[00:22:30] That's awesome. I guess sometimes it really is hard in those moments but I love that you can look back and see all

that you really did add to that. Because without leadership and without somebody guiding and directing. I mean who knows

what would have happened right? We need all of those things to come into play at the right time to happen. So what happened

after London? Because I think you retired from the track but something else kind of started to take a play and I want to know

how all of this unfolded?


[00:22:56] So I was thinking about giving up the sport. So London came and went and I had one season left as per my contract.

And I thought it was kind of the perfect timing because you know I could see and feel the end was near. As it pertains to my

ability to focus and really give all I needed to give to be a professional athlete. I knew that you know I can continue to compete

for 5 years at a mediocre rate or I could stop because I wasn't 100 percent. And my idea was you know make the most of this

last year of competing and then you know to move on with life. And while I was in my last year of competition I ran into Lolo

Jones at the airport and had read an article about her having tried bobsled after the 2012 Games. And just wanted to hear more

about her experience and how that happened and she was like Lauren it's awesome it's really really cool you should try it. And

it's the Olympic year and I was like so? I just got to be something cool to do in my free time. Now that I'm getting ready to

retire I wasn't thinking anything about the Olympics. And so yeah I reached out to find out what the process was and a month

later I was at the Olympic trials for bobsled and.


[00:24:12] A month later?


[00:24:13] A month later. Yeah.


[00:24:16] Goodness.


[00:24:16] No. Yeah. So that was. Yeah. From you know June of 2014 to June of 2013. July of 2013 I was there and I was

trying out and the Olympics were six months later. So immediately I showed up I got third place and I had a really steep

learning curve over the next six months.


[00:24:38] I would imagine that's insane. That's insane. And now how did you get partnered with Alona too because you guys

were obviously an amazing team. Like how does that all work out in the bobsled world? Do they pick your teammate for you

or do you guys kind of all work together? What does that look like?


[00:24:54] We do a little bit of round robin in those 6 months that I was telling you about. So we were racing a World Cup

season that takes place before you get to the games and that plays into your rankings and you know where you'll go in the

process as a driver. But we did a lot of round robin to figure out who was gonna be best suited to who. And we actually did not

know until 10 days before the actual Olympics who was going to race with who.


[00:25:20] Just 10 days? Whoa! that's crazy. So what. I mean did hearing the news that you're going to be on the Olympic team

and getting to walk this out was it just surreal? I mean here you were your whole life doing track and three Olympic Games

that way. And then all sudden you know in a month you're on this Olympic team and you're. I mean I can't even imagine. How

did you process that?


[00:25:44] So do I. Like I said it all happened really really quick from you know finding out about it. A month later being at

the trials to having 6 months to figure the whole thing out to be in a month before the Olympic Games. And we're all still

sitting and wait in you know anticipation. Trying to figure out like who are they going to pick. They finally named the team.

But then you still had to wait 20 more days to find out. You know, now you're on the team but you still don't know you're

racing with. So there's a lot of hurry up and wait anticipation and this big build of energy that's always happening in bobsled.

But it's just really about trying to figure out how to manage that to the best of your ability to kind of enjoy the ride. And I think

that was the thing that helped me a lot was I decided at the very beginning of it that I had nothing to lose.

[00:26:38] I only had things to gain and that the journey was going to be the thing that was going to be more important to me

than anything. What can I contribute? And I think that that 2012 experience of knowing that I wasn't competing but I could still

contribute. Help me understand that that's all that this was about. Is there a way I can contribute? Is there a way I can help this

team? And if you know if there's a way I can help but it doesn't require me to be on the actual track or on the actual team? Then

so be it. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that Team USA has the best 6 people out there.


[00:27:15] That's so cool. Now I have to know because I've only been a summer athlete. What's the difference besides the

freezing cold? It's not like Miami. What's the difference between the summer and winter games? From your perspective?


[00:27:28] I would say that intimacy is the biggest thing. So I always tell people like I remember one of the years. I think they

said the track and field team was 182 people. So just USA Track and Field 182 people for the Olympics. The Winter Olympic

team all sports 230 people.


[00:27:51] Wow.


[00:27:52] So it really puts in perspective. You know all the various sports that compete in the Olympic Games in the summer.

All the various sports for Team USA. You know there's thousands and thousands of athletes. But yeah one team in the summer

is pretty much equivalent to the whole Olympic team. All sports in the winter.


[00:28:13] Wow that's cool. That's very cool. Well, you guys went on to mean not just compete but you got a silver medal in

the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Just one-tenth of a second behind the Canadians. Like what did that medal mean to

you and how is that different from all your other experiences?


[00:28:31] I mean the thing that was really cool about the medal was like I said I'd never seen it coming. I could have never

guessed that my life was going to take that turn and bring me such a cool opportunity. And to have the opportunity to get to do

it with Alona who is an amazing person made it that much more gratifying. Because we did it together. And you know in track

and field I didn't really get that opportunity. I had the individual medals and then I got to be a part of a team and do my

contribution there. But then this was like the end of the third time. Making me well-rounded if you will of actually competing

with another person and earning that medal together. And it just felt so great to be able to do something with someone and to

understand what it means to like partner up. And decide to really go hard for it for a specific purpose with another person.


[00:29:30] That's so cool. And you made history and doing that she became the first American woman to win medals at both

the Summer and Winter Olympics. And one of only five athletes ever to do it at all. I mean that's incredible. Did you realize

you were making history when you did this?


[00:29:44] I did not. It did not come to my attention until the reporters brought it up afterward. What does it mean to you to

make history and I'm like What kind of history? I don't know. So.


[00:29:56] That’s so cool. Well OK. So tell me now you have a financial planning business called Worth Winning. Tell us

about your company.


[00:30:04] Yes. So my company was born out of me not having the best financial planners during my career. So I worked with

two different gentlemen during the course of my career and I wanted to be responsible with my finances. But they didn't really

understand what I needed as an athlete. You know what I needed as a 20 year old who didn't know a whole lot about money.

And you know my busy travel schedule and you know there's just a lot that doesn't fit into the traditional box of what financial

planning is. So I help young professionals and professional athletes organize their finances and you know what does that mean.

That's like creating a budget you never bought a house before and that's something you want to do. If you're saving for a

wedding you know you don't know anything about how to put money aside for taxes. And you know do you need a business

account or not. And there's just so many different things that get thrown our direction. And just kind of make money, spend

money, you know hopefully save a little bit money and you know that's not a real strategy.

[00:31:05] I help people optimize their finances so use them money, give it a job and give it a job that's gonna be in line with

your values. So I spend a lot of time talking with my athletes and the young professionals that I work with. About what are

your goals? What are your values? The same way that we do in the sport. Let's work backward from there and create smaller

goals. Smaller things that we want to do. And then go you know piece by piece after that so that we can you know the

championship is this one thing that you're trying to achieve. But once again it's never like making it to the podium that makes

you feel awesome. Is this journey all along the way? And so using money as a tool to really enjoy the journey is how I try to

focus my business and help people in all aspects of their finances.


[00:31:50] My goodness I love that on so many levels. I mean I love just what you're doing. I love who you're targeting to

help. I mean there's definitely that need there. I mean a lot of people like you said are young when they become professional

athletes. Because that's usually when an athletic career is optimal when you're young and you don't know anything. So I just

think it's brilliant. I love how you compare it to athletics in such a way that we can understand. And I think you do a lot of stuff

virtually too right?


[00:32:12] Yeah I'm completely virtual. I'm actually podcasting today from Buenos Aires. So.


[00:32:16] Oh wow. We should've done this on location. I should have come down to you. That would be nice.


[00:32:25] You know as young professionals we are tech savvy. We're on the go. We're spread out all over the country. And I

didn't want that to stop me from being able to serve the client that I want to serve. And we jump on a video chat just like zoom

and we talk about what needs to be talked about. And there's no dumb question. And there's no you know fancy suit and tie that

needs to be worn. You know people's kids are running around in the background. These things shouldn't be barriers. You

getting help and getting the answers that you need about your finances. And it should be talked about in such a way that you

don't understand it in. It sounds so fancy and complicated.

[00:33:00] You know we've got basic questions and I really just want to help with basic questions. When I was competing and I

wasn't finding that. I was frequently finding you know there like I said fancy talk down to me it sounds more complicated than

you can understand. Because you're not smart enough and I'm like No that's not true at all. Like, break it down in a way that

lets me know what I'm doing. Why we're doing this? And you know helped me set some goals so that I'm gonna be OK in the



[00:33:25] I love it. Sports just. Yes. It can play off in your life in so many ways. And it's just such a good analogy for life

right? You could just use it in so many ways. I love it. And you also have a podcast now you said it's a year it's been a year

now. So happy anniversary to your podcast called Worth Listening. What do you talk about on your podcast?


[00:33:42] Yes. I love love love love my podcast. And the reason that I love it is like a passion project for me. It is encouraging

others to discuss money and I think that's one of the big barriers that we have in organizing our finances nowadays. Because

we all know that everybody has to make money some sort of way. Everybody has to spend money on some sort of way. And

there's no requirement that you hire a financial planner or someone to help you. But what people do is hide the information and

they are afraid to say what they don't know and they're ashamed of all these different things. And that's what actually leaves

you making more mistakes is hiding, being embarrassed not feeling like you can be open. And feeling like you have to know

everything and you can't ask anyone anything. And so my podcast is based all around people telling their money story. So that

the listeners don't have to feel alone and like oh I have student loan debt too that six figures. And you know this is how I'm

tackling it. And you know I don't know what a 401(k) is but I know I'm putting some money in it. And you know now this

person help me break it down a little bit.

[00:34:48] So it's getting rid of all those barriers of things that could stop you from being able to save for your future or being

able to get over the fact that you've made some mistakes before and really move forward. You know I had a girl on recently

that I met paid down over 50,000 dollars in credit card debt. And I think a lot of people get in a situation like that and they just

you know maybe file for bankruptcy. Or they would never even say anything to anyone. But this girl decided to make a

mindset change and pay it all back and get rid of it and you know to change the way that she was going to think about money

in the future. And I think that's a really inspirational story to tell. She didn't have to be a financial expert to inspire people to do

the right thing and to get on some sort of plan. So the podcast is all about like I said having money. Discussions and

encouraging others to be more open and honest about sharing what they know and educating one another about finances.


[00:35:42] And if that's not having this new business in your podcast you're also releasing a book very soon called the Oval

Office. A 4 time Olympians guide to professional track and field. So tell us about your book that's coming.


[00:35:56] The book. Yes. This is another thing that I'm really excited about we are just days away. Actually spent the whole

morning on the last round of edits and sent it off to the designer to redo and get it to look like a book. Because right now it's

like a document and yet again another passion project. There are so many people in track and field that are just like how do you

navigate this world and they have questions. And there's no guide. There's nothing that tells you to like how do you become a

professional track and field athlete? And what do I need to know and how can I be responsible for managing all these different

aspects? And what questions should I be asking my agent? What should I consider before I buy a house and then decide that

I'm going to go train with this coach instead. And now I'm stuck with a house in this state and got to pay rent in this day.

[00:36:42] And there's just so many different things that I learned during my time competing that I felt like I needed to share.

And it wasn't just gonna be a one hour talk and you know try to change someone's life. But like why not give them the

roadmap to the things that I felt like I was missing in addition to the things that I felt like I did really well. And that's how the

Oval Office was born. And I'm really really really excited about the way that it's going to change the lives of those or interested

in the sport. Obviously not going to be like a New York Times bestseller. Track and field is a very small sport but it matters so

much to me that they'll have a resource available to them to help them understand better how to navigate sport.


[00:37:23] I think it's amazing. It sounds like you don't just have to be a track and field athlete. I mean I'm looking at the

highlights that you had on the Web site. I mean it's like how to choose the members of your team including your agent, your

coach, your training group. How do you negotiate sponsorships and contracts? And handling your finances like a professional

athlete. Building your brand using social media. Managing travel nutrition life outside of sports. I mean to me it sounds like it's

gonna be helpful to any professional athlete. So I'm gonna have to preorder a copy because I know you can. So tell us where

we can find your book your podcast. Your company. All of your online things where we can follow you to continue to just be

inspired and to learn from you because you obviously have a lot of great wisdom to teach us.


[00:38:03] Definitely. So the book is The-Oval-office.com. So all of my web sites have a little dash in the middle because you

know to buy the actual website was a bazillion dollars. But we've kept it all consistent so whatever words I say put a dash in

the middle in between and get to the .com and you're there. So Lauren-Williams.com is my personal Web site is all about me as

an Olympian and being a speaker and consulting and things like that. And then Worth-Winning.com is a website for financial

planning all things financial planning. And so you can find us on social media looking for the same sort of thing. So

Worth_Winning on Twitter, @worthwinning on Instagram. Lauren C. Williams on all the social media platforms so that's the

one thing that's a little bit different. But I'm sure that all the initial notes. So.


[00:38:54] Yeah. We'll make sure to link to everything you guys don't get confused. But Lauren thank you so much for coming

  1. You're an incredible inspiration. I feel like you're a great teacher as well and so we just really appreciate all of your wisdom

here today.


[00:39:06] It was wonderful being on the show. Like I said I hope that I can inspire and I'm just really excited to be kind of in

the next phase of life where I can give back to the sport because the sport has given so much to me.


[00:39:19] Wow! A huge thanks to Lauren for joining us today. Isn't she just incredible? I just love how she talked about taking

that time off in 2010 to really dig into her purpose and figure out what life was about outside of running. It's so neat how that

journey just drastically changed who she was going into the next Olympics. The gratitude leadership and composure that her

solid identity gave her. It really allowed her to ride the waves of the coming years towards all of the amazing things that she's

doing now. She's just incredible. Be sure to check out the links the show notes to follow on social media. And if you're an

athlete definitely snag a copy of her book because that knowledge will be so invaluable for you and for the athletes out there

looking to improve their athletic performance with a purpose. I'm offering a free life masterclass where all talk about five

common mistakes athletes makes that hinder success. If you're ready for a change and want the skills to take your performance

to the next level then I want you to go and sign up. LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass. That's LauraWilkinson.com/masterclass

to sign up for my free live masterclass on five common mistakes athletes make that hinder success. I'll see you there! And be

sure to subscribe so you don't miss next week's episode because we have an absolutely insane athlete joining us. David Colturi

was once just a 10-meter platform diver like myself. But apparently that wasn't quite enough of a thrill. He is now a cliff diver

and travels internationally diving from nearly nine stories high. I'm sure you're wondering how he does it. I am too. You don't

want to miss it. On behalf of Hope Sports, I'm Laura Wilkinson. Thanks for tuning in and have a great week. This podcast is

produced by Evo Terra in Simpler Media. For more information on Hope sports and to access the complete archives please

visit HopeSports.org



Hope Sports
P.O. Box 120564
Chula Vista, CA 91912

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