The Race

By , Barrington, IL
Hundreds of contestants were gathered on the pristine white line. The only differences between the runners were the bright colors of their uniforms. I scanned the crowd looking for the mass of red. After finding Palatine in their red, I found the true crimson I was looking for. The Barrington girls were standing perfectly still. They all wore black under armor under their intimidating spandex tops. It was cold and the breath rose from their mouths with in short puffs. Many of my teammates wore cheap gloves and headbands that would later be discarded somewhere along the 3 mile course when they got warmer.

I saw the starter, garbed in a neon orange vest, walk away from the starters. He stopped about a hundred yards or so away. He slowly raised his left hand, the signal for the runners to get ready. When every single runner was standing completely still, he raised his right hand, the one holding cap gun. He waited a few seconds, and fired. At the sound of the shot every single runner sprinted off the line.
The start is always my favorite part of the race. That is when the ground shakes as though a stampede is running through. The muted thud of feet echoes millions of times making a unique sort of sound. They are still in one giant mass of colors, fighting for a spot in the front, trying to avoid being boxed out.

While all the competitors were focusing on winning the race, I was standing on the sidelines. I had a clipboard in one hand and a stop watch in the other. I had on a thick sweater and sweatpants to ward off the morning chill. I stood on one leg, crutches supporting the other. One week before I had received terrible news, I had a stress fracture.

I had started off my freshman season of cross country the same as everyone else. First being appalled by the idea that I was expected to run more than one mile without stopping, and then later accepting and even enjoying my daily workouts. Unfortunately, my season was short lived when I was plagued with unexpected shin splints. I ignored the stabbing pains in my legs while I ran, even though every step was agonizing. After practice I would take my weary legs over to the trainers where I would ice my bruised shins in an attempt to stop the pains. Before races I would take copious amounts of Advil in an attempt to make each step less painful. After weeks of this torture I decided to do something about it. Running was no longer the highlight of my day, but the part at which I dreaded most. I decided this torture was too much to tolerate, and I went to the doctor. I sat through poking, prodding, and x-rays. The results were not good. I not only had severe shin splints, but a stress fracture as well. I was told that six weeks on crutches should heal it sufficiently, and if I promised to use my crutches all the time, I would be spared the cast. My dreams of being a successful runner were smashed. My dreams of being a runner at all were over. I was devastated.

After bonding with my teammates for an entire summer, I refused to leave cross country and accept defeat. So I was appointed to timing duty and I if I was lucky, I would be able to run a couple of races by the end of the season.

Race after race I crutched myself from the start to the one mile mark, and then the two mile mark, timing the girls as the ran their race. I helped carry clothing that the girls shed at the line back to the tent that housed the girls waiting for their turn at the course. I carried water to the girls that were dehydrated after that race as well as giving my teammates the morale support they needed to help ease the butterflies before the competition. I was happy to help my friends in any way I could, but I was anxious to run again. I felt as though a part of me was missing. I no longer that the daily stress relief of a long run. After six long weeks, I was ready to restart my training.

I spent the next couple of weeks slowly building up my stamina, as well as giving my legs time to adjust to the new pressure being put on them daily. While my teammates ran four miles a day, I ran one. It was difficult to watch my friends become stronger while I struggled for what was considered a warm up. After my battle, week after week, I was ready to run, just in time for the last race.





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