When George Pierce takes his place at the starting line at this year’s Duathlon World Championships, held in October in Adelaide, Australia, it will likely mark the close of a career that caught fire over 25 years ago when he became the world’s first duathlon champion (a run-bike-run race originally referred to as “biathlon”). It will also mark the fifth year in a row that he’s competed at this level since recovering from a near-fatal collision that left him with multiple fractures to his neck and spine, uncertain if he would ever walk again.
It was a little over five years ago, during a training ride on his bike, that Pierce was hit from behind by a car. What happened next was nothing short of remarkable: After just 32 hours spent stabilizing in the emergency room at nearby Stanford Hospital, he was released without receiving any further medical attention.
It wasn’t that Pierce didn’t have plenty to contend with. He had difficulty walking, wore a neck brace occasionally, and spent the better part of three months sleeping in a La-Z-Boy. But he also had a tremendous amount of faith that he would eventually recover, and that his prayers – as well as the prayers of his family and friends – would be integral to this process.
“Ultimately the best prayer that heals is knowing love. God’s love,” said Pierce during a recent interview at the Christian Science Reading Room in Palo Alto where he works part-time as head librarian. “I’ve had so many healings with just knowing God’s love.”
For some, probably most, “knowing God’s love” can seem pretty vague, not something that could or should be relied on for physical healing. And yet, the way Pierce describes it in a published account, it sounds a lot more reasonable. And effective.
“During the next few months, I focused not on fixing a broken body but on more clearly understanding the qualities of God that I reflect as His child,” he writes. “I studied the seven synonyms [Christian Science Church founder] Mary Baker Eddy uses to define God: Love, Truth, Life, Principle, Soul, Spirit, and Mind. For instance, I knew that divine Love is ever present, protecting everyone at all times…. This meant I had to let go of blame and judgment of the driver [who hit me] and replace them with forgiveness. I thought about perfect Mind, the one cause that creates only good. That helped me see the unreality of complaints, negativity, and fear. I felt confident that I could rely on Principle, which rules all creation, including me, in perfect order. And I affirmed that Life is always upholding and sustaining me in my divine mission to express strength and vibrancy.”
It was the part about forgiveness that proved to be the most challenging for Pierce – and ultimately the most rewarding.
“When I forgave, that’s when the healing came faster. There was no anger, no emotional commitment to the accident,” he said. “I won’t say it was easy. It was hard.”
Within three months, Pierce felt well enough to start running again, steadily gaining strength, speed and flexibility. Then one day he heard what he describes as an angel message: “Get ready to race” – a startling bit of encouragement, to be sure, given that he hadn’t competed professionally in years.
“I began to find daily inspirational messages to make a comeback,” writes Pierce, “not just to good health, but to an even stronger state than in the past seven years of recreational training.”
Just one year after his accident, Pierce was competing in the Duathlon National Championships in Tucson, Arizona, which included 5 kilometers of running, 35 kilometers of biking, and another five kilometer run at the end.
“This was an opportunity to show others that spiritual healing without drugs or surgery is practical when we turn to God. My goals as I trained were to express agility, strength, stamina, and love for all the other athletes that were striving for excellence. I stood on Principle, took a stand hourly for the power of God, claimed my divine authority, and never gave up.”
An eighth place finish in his age group qualified Pierce for a spot on Team USA at the 2011 Duathlon World Championships in Spain, where he would place seventh in his age group. He returned to the World Championships again in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Asked what impact his amazing comeback had on his approach to competitive athletics, Pierce keeps the focus squarely on God.
“I think it recalibrated me,” he said. “It wasn’t about high-level performance or winning, like it was in the early years. It was more about, ‘Let’s show the world and myself who God is, what God can do; who I am, how spiritual I am, that there are no limits.’”
“I toe the line everyday. I say, ‘OK, God. Show me how to do it. Let’s go. Let’s do this!’”