Faith, Community, Running — In That Order
Hello Oval Magazine fans, my name is Austen Dalquist.
I currently am a distance runner for Roots Running Project in Boulder Colorado.
Think of the group that Noah Droddy and Frank Lara run for, if that does not ring a bell then I cannot help you! I also work an ecommerce job for a company called OneStone, they pay the bills for now! I spent my formative years in Keller Texas — middle and high school — and Fayetteville Arkansas (college, Go Hogs). I am 25 years old and have been a runner for about half my life, starting with wide eyes and no remote idea what I was getting into at the beginning of my 7th grade year.
Running became my God for a long time.
It was my defining factor, my niche, what made me different and cool. For my first several years in the sport, things came pretty easy. Do not get me wrong, I believe that I worked hard at it, but I also had some good teammates and coaches along the way and my talent and tenacity toward the sport helped generate success. I became state champion, earned a scholarship at the University of Arkansas and felt positioned to win NCAA titles and make the Olympic team.
It did not turn out like that at all, but I am incredibly thankful for it.
I started losing a lot in college, falling short at races, struggling in practice…. This coincided with relationship issues that I began to experience, between girls and teammates, and this left me in turmoil.
I was empty.
The idols in my life were letting me down, which led me to go searching. Maybe running was not for me, maybe marrying a girl was not for me, maybe I needed to invest my time in other passions or hobbies. But then I stepped into a church that was for me.
Up to this point, I had always nonchalantly believed in God.
My family and I went to church sporadically growing up, I attended youth group occasionally as a middle schooler, but I never took it seriously or truly understood it. It was a fun thing to do socially, and it seemed like this God guy seemed pretty cool, but I would leave it at that. If you asked me during these times, I would tell you that I was a definite believer. However I was not praying, I was not reading the word, I did not give God the time of day.
I even attended church semi-frequently at the beginning stages of college, but that was more so to go with friends, feel like a good person and eat brunch after.
I learned about New Life through an internship that I started in the summer of 2017.
The church that I attended before New Life Church in Fayetteville was not working for me. I know for a fact that they do great things and bring many people to the cross, but at this pivotal point in my life I needed a change. I had recently started dating a girl at the time of this church shopping as well, wrestling with how to manage a godly relationship along with the myriad other things going on in my life.
I had a coworker that would show up an hour before work and spend time in the word at the office before getting going with his day. I thought this was awesome, so I asked him about his church home. JP, along with many other leaders at New Life Church showed me selfless and grace filled love for the first time in my life. Never before had I attended a church where I was not intimidated and guilt tripped by those in charge. Getting plugged into the church was a slow process, but I started to volunteer my time, attend as many college and regular service-related events as possible, and most importantly- started praying and spending time in the word.
This life change snowballed into a ton of growth at Arkansas, leading to holding a bible study for guys on the track team to beginning the journey of reading the bible cover to cover. Outside of my faith, everything changed.
I was more joyous, I ran better, I took life less seriously, I invested my time in people and things that gave me positive outcomes.
I had found a solid foundation that was not going to let me down, something that I can lean on wherever and whenever I was willing to put up my hands and surrender. Of course, it was not always sunshine and rainbows —there were physical and emotional turmoils that I went through. I failed as a son, friend and boyfriend… But this time, I had Jesus to lift me back up and some solid believer friends to walk through life with me.
From friends that were believers for longer than I, to new friends that I met through the church to the people in my running circle, my community came to fruition. Community is the second most important pillar to your life’s journey, in my opinion. You have heard the saying: “You are the sum of the five closest people around you.”
This is true, but you need to first make sure that there are actually at least 5 people that make up your community, and these people need to be speaking life into you and positively impacting you.
When it comes to faith, my personal #1 pillar, having fellow believers to walk through life with is paramount. God is enough, yes, but having faithful friends to lean on through tough seasons and celebrate with in great seasons has proved to be paramount in my life. It has helped me to discern decisions, keep the main things the main things and focus on important endeavors.
When it comes to running, or any sport, hobby, endeavor — a community truly makes it special.
The thing that I miss the most about my high school and college team are the guys in it and the camaraderie that we shared. Working together everyday toward common goals stuck us together like glue, we saw each other at lows and highs, and we had countless hours of uninterrupted conversations on the dirt roads. This shared suffering helped raise the tides of everyone on the team, we could work through and figure out our running and personal lives together and nothing felt better than seeing each other or the team as a whole succeed.
I would be bold enough to tell you that pursuing your passions and or God given talent with others is a must, you will gain so much from the experience and perspective of others, along with making lifelong friends in the process.
My #3 pillar in this article is running.
Ah, running. It is my God given talent, it helps to keep me healthy, keep me disciplined, and keep me motivated.
Running is still very important to me — just not my end all be all for life.
It is my passion, it is what I do, it is what I pursue. It has brought me to so many cool places and exposed me to so many cool things and cool people. I am writing this from the running paradise of Boulder, Colorado, I am a part of a team of really awesome and talented people, I live in a house of really awesome and talented people (my roommates run for Tinman), and I met my really awesome girlfriend out here.
None of this would have been possible without running.
I have raced in California, Washington, New York and London to name a few, and I hope to race in many more! Running is what I do, and I hope to always be able to run. There have been times in my life where I took the sport too seriously, my mood and how I interacted with people correlated directly to how I was running and how I was feeling. This also spilled over to other aspects of my life, to my diet, social events, who I would interact with and when.
Those behaviors led to some hard lessons I had to learn. I had an eating disorder my second year of college, I avoided people and things because it would “affect my running" and it just was not healthy. I know that I missed out on joyous things and good opportunities. I was putting too much stock in something that was ultimately going to fail me, just like everything on this earth.
I enjoy running more now than I ever have, and I contribute that to my faith, my situation here in Boulder, and the running and faith community that I am in.
Do I still want to run as fast as possible? Of course. Do I still want a personal shoe deal? Of course. Do I still want to make an Olympic team? Absolutely. Will I be okay if none of this happens? More than okay! The blessings in my life are endless, the people that I have gotten to meet through this sport will be cherished forever.
Even if I never beat my 4:00.66 mile PR or fail to ever run a fast 10k again, I am happy to have run for so many years and be given the opportunities that I have been given, especially the ability to continue to pursue the sport out in Boulder. Even if God brought me here to just run and workout with others in order to encourage and be there for them, so be it.
What a ride it has already been!
Even if my major injury last January was something that I was called to build back from solely to shine God’s light and never be the same runner again, I am thankful. Finally, even if running is not your thing, everybody has at least one “thing”. I encourage you to lean into that thing and do not give up on your dreams about it.
I hope that this article was worth the read to you, and that you can build a solid faith, have a strong community, and have a good time on your runs while you get fit.