As the alarm clock goes off, signaling the end of my blissful rest, I suddenly bolt upright in my bed. "Today's the day!" I think. I jump out of bed and rush out to the kitchen to grab some breakfast. After pouring myself a bowl of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice, I sit down at the table to enjoy my meal. While hastily scooping cereal into my mouth, I begin to prepare myself for the day ahead. "You can do it," I tell myself. "This is the day that you will get first place in a race." After six races without a win, I am starting to feel a little discouraged. But I can't let that get to me. I know that I can do it. My best time for a 5K, 16:24, is good enough to win at least one race. Suddenly, I am pulled from my reverie by the sound of my dad calling my name. "Come on Nick. It's time to go," he says. I quickly put my dishes in the sink and grab my water bottle, then lace up my running shoes and head out to the car. The drive out to the course passes speedily, and I say goodbye to my parents before leaving to join my teammates. Eli, my best friend, comes over to greet me.
"Hey Eli, how are you today?" I ask him.
"I'm pretty good," he replies. "How about you?"
"I feel great today. Are you feeling ready to run?"
"Yeah, I guess I am. I'm still kinda tired though."
"Yeah, me too. How long until our race starts?"
"We have about 45 minutes. We'll probably need to warm up soon."
Just as Eli says the words, our coach strides over to us and tells us to start our warm ups. Before every race, the whole varsity team completes a series of warm ups consisting of stretching and jogging. We begin our stretches, casually talking about the race.
"This course is really easy," says Brendan, another of my teammates. "There are no hills at all!"
"That's awesome!" I exclaim. "I never run well on the courses that have tons of hills."
"Me neither," says Eli. "It will be nice to run on a course with no hills for a change."
"I agree," I say. "We've had too many races with big hills lately."
After we finish our stretches, we begin to walk the course to make sure that we are familiar with all of the twists and turns. About halfway through, we begin a warm up jog which we continue for about ten minutes. We finish our warm up jog, and then we return to our coach for a last minute pep talk.
"Okay everybody, listen up," he says. "This course isn't going to be too difficult; just remember to keep pushing yourself through the pain."
"Alright coach!" we all reply.
"Try your hardest and be proud of yourselves," coach says. "You've all worked really hard this year; now get over to the start line."
As we make our way to the start line, I feel a rush of adrenaline. I know that I can win this thing. Now I just need to make it happen. We all get set on the starting line and wait for the starter to fire his pistol.
"Runners to your mark!" he shouts. Then, while the sound of the pistol's shot still rings in the air, hundreds of runners surge forward in an effort to occupy the top positions in the pack. I get off to a good start; there are only five runners ahead of me after the first mad dash. The race seems to drag by, exhaustion grabbing hold of me within the first few minutes of the race. But I push on, just like coach told me to, knowing that I will later regret any slackening of my pace. It pays off. Soon I pass first one, then another of the runners in front of me, just as I reach the first mile mark.
"Keep going Nick!" shout my parents.
"5:05 Nick!" says my coach. "You can do it!"
Wow. I haven't ever finished the first mile in under five and a half minutes before. This realization gives me renewed energy; I push forward again, passing another competitor. That puts me in second place. I only have to pass one more runner to be in the lead! I try to pass him, but he is just too fast. Then suddenly we reach the two mile mark where coach tells me that we are just past ten minutes. I look ahead to locate the other runner. Increasing my pace, I come up behind him, using his body to block the force of the wind. That helps a little; at least now I can keep pace with him. I remain behind him for what seems like an eternity until we round the final corner. With the finish line in sight, we both break into a dead sprint. I pull up level with him, but then he begins to pull away from me. But I won't let that happen. I can't let that happen. I dig deep within myself and find new reserves of strength that I didn't even know I had. Slowly, ever so slightly, I begin to gain on him, then to pass him, until I tear across the finish line ahead of him. I can't believe it. I actually won the race! My coach approaches me, a look of elation on his face.
"Congratulations Nick!" he says. "Your time is 15:49!"
I'm in shock. I had no idea it would even be possible for me to finish a race that fast. While I try to recover from the exertion of the race, I take sips of water and congratulate my teammates who finish. After the race is over, we all go back with coach to talk about the race.
"Everybody, let's give Nick a round of applause for his PR today."
As I stand there receiving the cheers of my team, I feel a profound sense of happiness, and I realize that there's no other place that I'd rather be.