"I pray for everyone that overtakes me, so that's a lot of folk getting prayed for out there.” Rev. Paul Carr has an unusual hobby. No, not prayer but Ironman Triathlons. The 3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42km run is regarded as the toughest one-day sporting event in the world. While many competitors pray for salvation from the distances and pain, Carr integrates his calling and prayer into his race. So how does an Anglican Minister get involved in such a challenging event? And how does his faith impact his sport and life?
“I ask myself the same thing when my alarm goes off at 3am for another day of training - my wife and children too, but I think they’re used to me now!
I’ve been quite disciplined with training and sport most of my life from a young age. As a schoolboy growing up in England, I was fortunate to play football (Soccer) at a number of professional football clubs. I used to pray before most games and then wrestle with God when results didn’t go my way. I was not always patient with myself or with God, and whilst I have always been ‘driven,’ that sense of drive was not always healthy. Thankfully through good people and experiences in my life that drive, sense of will and desire led me to seek God with everything that I have.”
“I grew up in an Oxfordshire Village Church of England School, which still has just a church, a shop, and pub. Community life was very much centred around church activity and people were united and came together through the church. A funny memory is of the terrors of a freezing cold 13th Century Gothic church, approachable only through the graveyard, with rock hard pews to welcome us are well embedded in my Anglican history.”
“It is defiantly a spirit thing. I have a desire to seek God with all of my heart, all of my soul, all my mind, and all of my strength. There are times when you feel connected and ‘in the zone,’ and other times where you feel injured, upset, angry, or even lost. There are testing times in life and in sport, but probably most of all our testing times are found deep within ourselves, and that’s where I believe we often find God: through the hard times, dry seasons, the emotional or physical injuries we carry.
My sport is long distance Ironman triathlons. This demands focus, spirit, will, mental, emotional and physical strength. There are many times you feel utterly and dangerously depleted in each area. However, somehow from deep within, there lies a sense of survival, endurance to win the race, and a desire that pushes the body, mind, and spirit well beyond a limit that many people consider ‘safe.’ I think faith is sometimes like that.”
“Looking back, ever since I was young, I loved the sense of community and justice. My career took me into these places working with people and patients with psychiatric illness, I think that I’ve just had a strong call in my life to go places where there is vulnerability and risk, where people hurt, or are seeking. Christ, I believe, has always been ‘on my case’ and finally I just gave up and said ‘Yes, Okay Lord, I will follow you’.
Looking back in my life, I can see how and where I’ve wrestled with a sense of call, and I tried to push against it for long enough so that maybe I thought I was absolutely sure, sometimes you just have to give in and that’s when life just seems to become clearer. This is not easy if you’re driven and determined, but I’m glad He’s the winner.”
Look out for Paul Carr at the IRONMAN ASIA-PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIP CAIRNS June 9th. Carr is Minister at St Stephen's Anglican Church, Melbourne Victoria.