Dr. Joshua Christiansen believes in the power of prayer. As the pastor of a church in Greenville, Pa., he and his wife Marcia have made sure their seven children have been schooled in the teachings of Christ.
But the Christiansens do more than just pray and worship together. They do most of their activities together, and their main passion is running.
With four girls and three boys, the family enters between 15 and 20 road races a year. They'll bring their road show to Clarksburg this weekend as all nine have entered the Italian Heritage Festival 5K Run.
"I was just looking through a road race directory and saw it," he said. "It's close and an easy drive for us so I thought why not give it a try."
Dr. Christiansen ran both track and cross country in college at North Central College of Illinois.
Nineteen-year-old Jeni is currently following in his footsteps at Illinois' Wheaton College. The school's cross country team finished 13th in the nation this past fall.
The next two girls in line, Jil, 17, and Jesi, 15, are making their mark on the high school level. Running for Greenville High School, Jesi won the 3200 meters while Jil finished third in the event at the recently completed state meet.
"Jil finished second last year, but her time this year was better so she was still pleased," Christiansen said. "Both of them have done well and usually win their division in these road races."
The family's three boys, Jed, Jake and Job -- ages 13, 11, and 9, respectively -- also frequently finish high in their division of 5Ks.
The youngest Christiansen, Jacy, turned 7 on Thursday.
Jeni began running with her father at the age of 3.
"She used to ask me to let her run with me," Christiansen said. "Finally, we started running to our neighbors and back and then I'd go and finish my run.
"But eventually she worked her way up to where she could stay up with me."
Some of the children began running before the age of two.
Marcia never took running seriously until the family moved to Pennsylvania from Illinois seven years ago.
"She would jog just to try to stay in shape, but she never thought about doing it competively," Christiansen said. "But I told her I thought she'd become pretty good if she'd let me train her.
"Now, she usually wins her division."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444.