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It’s funny how the two most familiar words can seem so distant, so scary, so unfamiliar. Gripping the handle of my small, black duffel I replayed the words through my mind. Licking his lips, he announced again,
“Emily Knight will be running the 400 meter dash against the top 8 runners in the state. Anyone is welcome to come and cheer her on.”
He turned to face me, dropping his clipboard to the ground. The turf rattled with the clipboard’s arrival, causing my heart to bounce. He smiled and came toward me, patting my shoulder. Everyone began to pick up their track belongings and walk back to the school. I sat. Sprawling out on the turf, I stumbled upon my thoughts. I closed my eyes and envisioned my success…and failure. I had never lost a race, I couldn’t lose this one…right? Glancing to my watch, I reached for my spikes under the metal bench and cracked my knuckles. Tomorrow was a big day, I had to be ready.
Butterflies began their descent through my stomach the morning of the race. I lie in my bed clenching my fists staring blankly at the ceiling. Sweat began to perspire at my hairline and my lips felt suddenly chapped. Heat overwhelmed me as I threw the covers to the ground and began urgently scavenging for my clothes.
I sighed and ate my eggs, attempting to throw the future away…if such a thing was possible. My mother waltzed into the kitchen and flashed me a smile,
“Ready? It’s a big day!”
I scowled to the ground and felt a pain in my gut…I would never forget this day. Forcing the remains of my breakfast down, I began my journey to school.
Throughout the day constant reminders of my position sprung about, from tennis shoes, to medals in the display case. Every corner provided a new worry, a new problem that I just couldn’t seem to forget. Imagining every possible outcome was more terrifying than the race itself. My friends spoke words that seemed so unimportant and every sentence uttered was a blur. A race like this was unforgettable…would always be remembered.
When the final bell rang, so did my heart. I inhaled deeply and attempted to calm my nerves. Packing up my things and shuffling down to the locker room I ran into my friend Maddie,
“Hey Em-Good luck tonight! You’ll do great! Don’t worry!”
She then began reciting some of our favorite inspiration lyrics, but all I heard was the shrill firing of the race gun. She then hugged me and scurried along, taking with her all serenity.
I crashed on the bus to the track meet. Every dream involved victory and happiness, which to me was a good sign. I felt as if the stars were aligned…but my nerves didn’t agree.
When I began warming up I felt my palms grow sweaty and my body grow numb. Nothing could change the way I felt, not even my coaches. I eased my self on to the ground and began tying my spikes. This was it. The moment I dreaded for the past couple days. I knew it was coming…just not now. Blythe Whealy, a friendly teammate, smiled down at my, reaching out her hand. I grabbed it and together we walked toward the starting line.
I arched my hands and placed them behind the thin white line. Pressing my tired, aching feet against the firm starting block, a satisfaction arose. I cracked my knuckles one last time and looked at the athletes around me. I earned this spot…let’s win.
A pain spiraled down my back and I began to arch my butt up into the air. All went silent. The slow and steady breathing of the girls around me faded. All I heard was my own solid heartbeat…this…was it.
BAMMM! The gun echoed through the air as my body sprung from the blocks. I felt my legs pumping and my heart beating. I quickly began lacking oxygen and found I was in the lead. As I passed the first 200 meter, I reached the 2nd curve. The girls around me sprang ahead, bounding like a herd of gazelles. My lungs and heart cried with pain as I drove my feet to the ground. I watched people pass me as I reached the 300 meter mark and my heart sank. Pushing and withstanding, I pressed on. I watched the clock time increase and increase but my body gave in. I threw myself over the finish line in 8th place out of 9 and felt my body collapse onto the ground. Tears trickled down my cheeks as my coaches rushed to my aid. I had failed them and myself.
I began tying my spikes 6 minutes before my race. I felt my nerves kick in like always, but I urged on.
I arched my hands and placed them behind the thin white line, readying myself, arching my butt, and releasing. I sprang from the blocks and bounded forward, finding myself in 1st place by the second 200. By the 250, I was in the middle, pressing forward with all my might. As I reached the 300 mark, the finish line came into view. Pounding into the earth, my feet began to quicken beneath me. Pain exploded through my body as I rushed forward. Passing everyone, I sped ahead moving with all the will left inside me. My body forced against my persistance, but I did not let it give up. I forced on and leapt across the finish line, smiling as I did so. Pounding my fist into the air, I jumped…expressing the victorious feeling surging through my veins. I had done it. I had won.