Stories of Faith

Advice from an Olympics-bound runner to help you succeed in life’s marathon

Clayton and Ashley Young with their daughters at the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials
Clayton and Ashley Young with their daughters at the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials.
Screenshot from Instagram

It’s been an exciting year for Clayton Young. In February, he placed second at the 2024 US Olympic Marathon Trials, qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. He will compete in the Olympics this summer, representing the United States.

But Clayton wants people to know that the road to the Olympics is less about one big moment and more about consistent efforts over time. This reality might sound boring, but it’s based on a theory called “the mundanity of excellence,” coined by sociologist Daniel F. Chambliss.

Clayton believes that as we steadily take small steps in all areas of our lives, from careers to relationships, we can achieve excellence. “The more you focus on the mundane process, the more excellent the outcome will be,” he explained recently on an episode of the All In podcast.

He’s seen this formula apply not only to his athletic pursuits but also to his relationship with God and Jesus Christ:

“I love how many parallels there are to running and the gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s a lot of mundane things that we have to do. And sometimes you have to do the mundane things just for mundanity’s sake. But as they slowly shift from a checklist in your head to your heart, that’s when you really start to see the excellent outcome from living the principles of the gospel.

“And it’s the same thing with running. There’s just a lot of cumulative miles. I run almost 120 miles a week, and that’s a lot of time. And I do sauna and weight room, and there’s just so many things that I have to check that are so mundane.

“But as I’ve done that checklist day in and day out and kept this routine more than anything, the excellent outcome has come.”

Clayton’s wife, Ashley, confirms that there are more steady steps to becoming an Olympic-qualifying runner than simply lacing up your shoes and going for a run, such as fueling the body with nutritious food, taking supplements, or performing injury prevention exercises.

This idea of consistency across “small and simple things” (see Alma 37:6) has also inspired Ashley in her approach to the gospel.

“[Clayton’s] coach has said to him, … ‘Consistent competence equals eventual excellence.’” Ashley shares. “I think that ties right into this mundanity idea of just being consistently competent. You don't have to read your scriptures for two hours every day—you just have to do it every day. You don't have to have an Enos-like prayer every single day, but you do need to connect with God. It's not about blowing it out of the water every time.”

While consistency is key, Clayton and Ashley acknowledge that true excellence only comes in and through Jesus Christ.

“As I’ve trusted in His plan and in His grace, my works pale in comparison,” Clayton says. “Yes, I want to be the best person I can be, but it's really [about focusing] on Him, … who Jesus Christ is as my Savior, as my Redeemer, and as somebody that is on this journey with me side by side.”

Learn more about Clayton and Ashley Young’s journey to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games by listening to the full episode on the All In podcast, available in the player below or on your favorite streaming platform.

▶You may also like: 2 Olympics-bound runners boldly testify of faith on CNN: ‘There is more to this life than running’

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