Sixteen hours into a 24-hour race may seem an unlikely place to meet God but for Australian ultramarathon runner Larissa Tichon, it was at her “weakest of weaks” that she became a Christian.
“I went through all sorts of emotions, and that was where I realised what Jesus had done for me and that I needed him, that I can’t do life on my own,” she said.
“Running was a medium for me to encounter God.”
Having represented Australia in the 100-kilometre world championships, finished countless marathons and broken numerous world records including the fastest marathon dressed as a cartoon character, Larissa Tichon has never been a stranger to ambition.
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In fact, after being a Christian for nine years, she says she is still learning how to not let God’s gift of running become a god itself. And as she trains for her favourite race, the Woodford to Glenbrook Classic (a mere 25km run in June), she reflects on her battle with ambition.
“As a person who is very achievement oriented, I’ve climbed my own ladder of achievement, and when you get to where you think your goal is, the initial sense of elation might last 4 days if you’re lucky, but then you feel like it’s a bit empty, what’s next.”
“I was running 500 or 600 hours [per year], how much time did I spend planning runs, thinking about runs, looking at other people’s runs, fuelling my runs? That’s a lot of headspace.”
It took an injury three weeks before the world championships in 2018 for Larissa to realise that running had become an addiction. She says that the injury left her defeated and feeling like her whole life had fallen apart.
“Some of the richest and deepest conversations have been on runs” – Larissa Tichon
“That was a good revelation of my heart at that point,” she said.
“In the last few months of my growth journey God has been teaching me that I am the same person regardless of what I achieve.”
This revelation led her to choosing to stop tracking her activity on Strava account which was fuelling her obsession with results. Instead, she now sees her weekly 20 hours of training as a chance to fuel relationships.
“Some of the richest and deepest conversations have been on runs,” she said.
“More and more, running has been about how to build relationships first and foremost, and then trying to listen and understand their worldview, then asking questions, God will lead where that goes.”
Larissa and her husband Jerel became parents of their 10-month-old daughter Mila. A milestone that Larissa says has also seen her perspective on life and ambition dramatically change.
“My primary work is serving God, serving Jerel and serving Mila- everything else is whatever is in the extra time.”
With running being an activity that falls into this extra time, she now reflects,
“I’m running for the pure joy of it.”