3 marathoners for U.S. fueled by their faith

ATHENS (BP)--Dan Browne missed out on a medal in the 10,000 meters in Athens by finishing 12th, but he remains optimistic about the marathon Aug. 29.

Competing with Browne in the marathon for the United States will be two fellow Christians, Alan Culpepper and Meb Keflezighi.

"I am pleased with my race on Friday night [Aug. 20]," Browne told Baptist Press after the 10,000-meter event. "I gave my best and laid my best sacrifice down on that track."

Browne, in his first Olympics, finished the race in 28 minutes, 14.53 seconds. The gold medal winner, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, set an Olympic record with a time of 27:05.10.

Browne, 29 and a 1997 West Point grad, will become the first U.S. Olympian in 32 years to compete in both the marathon and 10,000 meters. He acknowledged he was a long shot in the 10,000 meters and thought going into Athens that the marathon would be his best opportunity for a medal.

"There is going to be pain and joy out there over 26 miles," Browne said. "I am going to try and imagine the pain that Christ went through on his way up to Calvary when I am climbing the hill from mile 13 to mile 20. I wish that I could watch the movie 'The Passion of The Christ' one more time, but my Bible will be helpful as I prepare for this task ahead."

Browne finished third in the Olympic trials in Sacramento in July behind Culpepper, who was first, and Keflezighi. All have been friends since 1998.

Culpepper, 31, told Sports Spectrum, "I don't think I'd be able to do this if not for my faith in Christ."

"When you're somewhat in the public eye, it easily can become about you and what you're accomplishing," Culpepper was quoted as saying in Sports Spectrum's e-mail newsletter Hot Corner Aug. 25. "I very easily can become selfish and about the wrong motivation, whether it's for attention, accolades or money. And that's so fleeting and futile, so for me [my faith] is pivotal. It's the only thing that can keep me grounded and, I feel, keep me motivated to run better, because all those other things are so temporary."

Culpepper's wife, Shayne, is a fellow Olympian who will compete in the 10,000 meters Aug. 27. The duo were members of the 2000 Olympic team in Sydney, Australia. He finished 17th in the first round of the 10,000 meters, while she finished ninth in the first round of the 1,500 meters.

Hot Corner quoted Keflezighi two days earlier as saying, "I have goals, but God has a plan.

"Whatever plan He has, whether I finish in first place, third or 12th ... I do everything I can to satisfy God. We're always a winner in His book -- regardless of how we do."

Keflezighi, 29, moved with his family to the United States in 1987 to escape from their war-torn homeland, Eritrea in East Africa. He is one of 11 children born to his Christian parents.

Keflezighi also was a member of the 2000 Olympic team, finishing 12th in the 10,000-meter finals.


Art Toalston contributed to this article.

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