Overcoming Toro Hill This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 8, 2009
There are some tasks you’re faced with in life where the only way to make it through is to grit your teeth, work your butt off, and get it over with. Running up a steep hill for half a mile in less than three minutes is one of such tasks. Especially when your football coaches are watching and a slow time could mean losing your starting position on the team. The first time I ran Toro Hill, it redefined my perspective on what is “hard” in life.

I stood at the base of The Hill, my mind disbelieving I was actually going to run up it as my eyes scanned the rocky slope. Remembering how my brother had returned from this experience pale and lifeless, I died a thousand deaths before the whistle to start finally blew.

Countless hours of drills told me to move forward at this sound, but still, I hesitated before starting into a brisk jog. Inhale. Exhale. My breathing matched the rhythmic pounding of my footsteps as I semi-consciously avoided the ever-plentiful rocks.

I was starting to think that it wouldn’t be so bad when the burning set in. After just a few more steps, the pain in my legs soon felt like I was sitting on the lip of a volcanic crater, playfully splashing them in the bubbling lava. I involuntarily staggered and began to slow when…

“Hooper! What do you think you’re doing? Don’t give up now!” Coach Maddox’s voice reverberated in my head and I immediately redoubled my efforts, to the despair of my calves and lungs. I consoled them with the thought, If I can just make it to that turn up ahead, I’ll stop.

So I persevered, now to the labored meter of my heaving breaths. The feeling of utter relief at reaching the bend instantly turned sour as I saw the final stretch of a steep 20 yards, at the end of which Coach Dobson sat waiting with a grim scowl etched onto his face.

It all came down to this moment. All my early morning practices. All the hours of lifting weights ‘til my arms dropped off. If I wanted to play this season, I had to show Coach right there. Letting out a preternatural grunt of exertion, I shifted into a higher gear and sprinted up the slope. The corners of Coach’s mouth twitched upward, transforming the scowl into a slightly satisfied smirk. “That’s it, baby Hoop!” he cheered me on as I crossed the finish line and fell to my knees in the dirt. I learned something right then; life could get pretty tough at times, but hey, if I could live through that, I could make it through anything.

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