Worldwide, there are 300 million practicing Buddhists, but Ginnie Crawford may be the only one who ranks among America’s track and field elite.
Ginnie’s parents raised her and her three siblings in the Buddhist faith. Her mother became enamored of the religion while in college, moved by its notions of cause and effect and reincarnation, and the power of Buddhist chanting.
Though it was difficult to grasp the nuances of the religion at a young age, it has come to provide her with a central focus of her life, on and off the track.
“Buddhism is extremely hard to explain to a child because it’s a philosophy on humanism and about humanity,” she said. “You don’t really grasp that.”
Her understanding of the religion deepened as she grew older, often in combination with her experiences on the track. In fact, it was a fall that Ginnie endured during her first year as a professional runner that gave her the greatest appreciation of what Buddhism had to offer.
Her hopes for the 2008 Olympics derailed by a series of injuries and subsequent surgery, the Seattle native had to look inside to deal with her disappointment and frustration.
She turned to her faith.
“Buddhism is really about bringing out your highest potential,” she explained, “crawling through those struggles, and blossoming into something greater.”
As the 5’9” world class hurdler recovered and began to resume her career, she did so with a different perspective. Though she already had been incredibly successful in her career, Ginnie began to put far more emphasis on the day-to-day aspects of her training, trusting that the results she wanted would come.
In particular, Ginnie said, she embraced the Buddhist notion of cause and effect, of “always being conscious of my actions in my own life toward my goals, toward people around me.”
The results were transformative. The pressure she had felt to win lessened, replaced by a deeper confidence in herself and her abilities.
That same faith has Ginnie feeling very good about her chances at the 2012 London Games.
“Buddhism is what has really made my mind stronger,” Ginnie said. “It comforts me and my nerves. It puts you in that mind state. You don’t have doubts any more about yourself or you’re not insecure.”