The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Running the race of your life: the story of Eric Liddell

The 2024 Paris Olympics are just around the corner, providing the opportunity to highlight powerful stories of Olympians past and present. One such man is Eric Liddell, who found Olympic success 100 years ago.

Liddell, born in 1902 in China to Scottish missionaries, made an early commitment to follow Christ. He took his faith seriously, believing that, because Jesus had died for him, his life should be spent serving God and other people. He was an outstanding all-round sportsman and, after playing rugby for Scotland, focused on athletics.

He was selected for the British team for the 1924 Paris Olympics with the expectation that he would run – and win – the 100m. Liddell, believing he had to respond to God’s goodness to him, refused to take part in the 100m heats held on a Sunday. He came under enormous pressure but, refusing to compromise his faith, instead trained for the 200m and 400m.

After taking bronze at the 200m, Liddell prepared for the 400m, a distance over which he was not expected to do well. Yet he won, breaking the world record in the process.

After the Olympics, Liddell felt called to return to China to teach in a Christian college. Soon, as war made China increasingly perilous, Liddell’s children and wife – pregnant with their third child – left. Liddell, committed to serving the Chinese people, stayed.

In 1943, Liddell was imprisoned in a brutal prison camp, where he became a leader – helping, encouraging, teaching Bible classes, and praying for both his inmates and captors. Malnourished, his health failed. In 1945, just months before liberation, he died aged just 43. Though widely mourned at the time of his death, he was soon forgotten – until 1981 when his story was made into the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.

Liddell framed his entire life within his knowledge and love of God. He believed that his ultimate, unbreakable priority was to serve Jesus, wherever he was – whether on the track, in his career, or even in a prison camp. Every arena presented an opportunity to declare Christ’s lordship. And he was ready to pay the price for following his Lord: in Paris, and again in China.

Eric Liddell’s life was dominated by one guide, the Bible; one figure, Jesus; and one goal, responding with all he was to the One who’d saved him. As we enjoy the Olympics, may we point those around us to Liddell’s remarkable story and seek to emulate it ourselves, wherever God leads us.

Evangelist, speaker, and author of Running the Race of Your Life.

You can get a free sample or order copies of this short booklet, retelling the remarkable story of Eric Liddell, at It’s perfect for giving away to others during the 2024 Olympics and Paralympic games.


  1. Coincidentally, I am reading an excellent book about Eric Liddell called For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton, the prize winning author of many wonderful sports books. I have only got up to winning Olympic Gold so I don’t how how he’ll handle Liddell’s missionary work but it’s good so far.

    By Will Parker  -  17 May 2024

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