It was 70 degrees on a sunny October day in the southwest. We traveled 2 hours by bus to get there, and I spent the entire time running the race in my head, over and over, alternating between Coldplay’s “A Rush of Blood to the Head” and Trick Daddy’s “Lets Go.” An odd combination that suited me perfectly. I needed to think deeply and evaluate what was going on, but I also needed to release the mounding anxiety I had and just get excited.
Number two runner, please. I stepped forward, adrenaline rushing through my veins. This was it. This was my final chance to prove that I could do it. The gun sounded. I sprinted away from the crowd that consisted entirely of parents and siblings cheering because they were promised pizza and a hotel swimming pool.
The smell of the freshly cut grass filled my lungs. This is where I belong. I belong on this course. I am strong. I can do this. I quickly tuned the world out and settled into my head. I was positive and hopeful. I looked ahead to a large willow tree that would be my first goal. The SHS girls, the HHS girl, and an assortment of other teams’ number 1 runners surrounded me. This is where I belong. I rounded the willow tree and made a decision. Five quick steps. I passed the SHS girls. Five quick steps. I could hear my old coach say, as I repeated the phrase in my head and passed an HHS girl. I gained energy as I passed her and knew this was my day. I had not beat any of them all season. My father’s voice broke the tape I had playing in my head. “You have to make a move now.” I obeyed.
I could feel my heart beating, my lungs contracting with every breath. But for once, it wasn’t labored. My spikes dug into the wooden bridge as I crossed a small pond. Mile 2. The most difficult part of the race. I want this more than anything I have ever wanted. Keep going faster. Every turn and every girl I passed I took 5 quick steps. And I smiled. Have fun, my coach used to say–her last words of advice to us before we toed the starting line. I powered up the hill, this is my strength. I passed another girl midway up the hill. If she passed me back I would relinquish an All-Region award. I annihilated the next mile; out of fear mixed with a degree of determination I had never felt before. I felt free. Someone read my time at mile 3. My heart sank. A few seconds later my dad knew exactly what to say. “The course is long,” he shouted. “800 meters to the finish, it’s all guts!” It’s all guts. I poured my soul into the grass and left my heart in the last 800 meters of the course. I could no longer feel any part of my body. I was flying. I crossed the finish line. All-Region strewn across my place card. I did it.
I knew my time didn’t matter because of the girls I had finished ahead of. I knew I would have one more chance at state to PR and submit a fresh time to colleges. I knew when I crossed the finish line I was going to be a college runner.