Olympic fever is everywhere, and this week we snagged an interview with runner Brittany Morreale, who is dating Olympic runner Lopez Lomong. (And we’re excited to announce that Lopez recently qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.)
4word: How did you and Lopez meet?
Brittany: I met Lopez at the Air Force Academy when he followed his former coach to train with our team leading up to the 2008 Olympics. When I first saw Lopez, I thought he would never want to associate with college athletes. Instead he had a huge smile across his face and became part of the team right away.
I introduced myself to him during hurdle drills after a run. I mostly associated with the team but always enjoyed watching him work out. He was an athlete at a level I had never achieved before, and I was absolutely enthralled. In a way it fulfilled part of my lifelong desire to train at an elite level. He was a great teammate, and it was only a few months later that I realized he was falling for me.
I never imagined he would like a college athlete – especially one who was not nearly as talented as he was. I waited a few months more until he asked me out during an ice bath after a hard workout together. We went on our first date on a Saturday after a long run, and since then, our relationship has only grown over the years.
4word: So are you a distance runner as well? Do you plan to make a career as a professional athlete?
Brittany: I am a runner as well. I ran D1 NCAA Cross Country and Track at the Air Force Academy. I ran the 5000m, and I continue to train although I only take part in informal competitions now. I don’t have dreams to be a professional runner anymore, as I am now transitioning into my Air Force career; however, I still train hard so that I can run with Lopez in his training. It is amazing to share the same love for running, and it is certainly foundational to our relationship.
4word: Will you be going with Lopez for part or all of the London Games?
Brittany: Yes, I will be at the Olympics with Lopez this year. I have been studying in Oxford, UK for the last few years, so it is perfect that the Olympics are here in London. It was meant to be!
4word: That is perfect! So now let’s talk about your relationship with Lopez. In what ways do you try to encourage him and point him towards Christ?
Brittany: Lopez and I started from scratch in our relationship in every way. It was my first serious relationship, and although I had been raised Catholic, I was still trying to find my way in my faith. We began going to church together and found places where our faiths and personal lives intersected. The Air Force Academy only allowed me freedom on the weekend, and going to church together became a wonderful place to share time together and grow in our faith. Neither of us came from any specific denomination but faith was pervasive throughout our lives.
4word: And in what ways does he do the same for you?
Brittany: Lopez helped me better understand my faith by sharing his story with me and allowing me to see the way God worked through his life. I was immediately blown away by Lopez’s story, but I was even more impressed by his positive attitude, infectious smile and drive to achieve. His story never hindered him; it launched him to achieve greater things. When we met, Lopez was still far from being an Olympian, but his journey to Beijing showed me the strength of the human soul and was a testament to a greater guiding force.
4word: Is there anything different/more difficult about dating a celebrity than other men you’ve dated in the past?
Brittany: I don’t see Lopez as a celebrity, and I don’t think he does either. I am not in a relationship with a celebrity, but rather in a relationship with a good man. Instead of using his notoriety for fame, it is his platform to speak for all of those children that he left behind in South Sudan. When Lopez runs a race, he doesn’t think about winning for his own glory; he runs for all of those children, recognizing what a joy it is to run freely and do what he loves. The only differences are that we travel a little more than some other couples, and I often get the chance to accompany him to speaking events or sponsorship events. If you asked Lopez he’d probably say I was the “celebrity” in the family.
4word: What have you learned about who God is through your relationship with Lopez?
Brittany: I learned that God is not a defined set of actions or obligations to go to church, go through certain sacraments, etc. Instead God is part of everything we do in life. There is no single point where Lopez came to his faith, but instead it was a constant part of his journey. I saw God in a whole new way through Lopez’s journey.
Through my relationship with Lopez I came to know God in a new way as well – instead of always being self restrictive and restrained, I realized that God is in the connections that we make and every step of the journey along the way. God’s strength is throughout the work that we do to help those in need — it is no longer a personal pursuit for spiritual perfection, thank heavens!
Thank heavens, indeed! Ladies, if you’d like to learn more about Lopez’ efforts to help the children of South Sudan, you can visit the 4 South Sudan website. And stay tuned for more updates. We’ll be following Lopez and Brittany’s story throughout the Olympic Games.