The Race

May 20, 2010
I was in the midst of a sea of people. It was impossible to shift in any direction without colliding with another. I finally found a few recognizable faces in the crowd. As I navigated towards them, the speaker sounded announcing the race’s start time in twenty minutes, surely enough time to settle.


I awaited my turn in the lines to the outhouses. One by one the girls I were with inched ahead to their turn. My turn came and the countdown began. I scrubbed my hands hurriedly as the countdown narrowed to five, four, three, two, one. The buzzer sounded and there was an immense shout from the crowd. I sprinted up the dirt hill and down the track just to make it to the start line where I hopefully would find the group I was running with, my group, my team, Team Fit.


A year previously I would’ve never guessed or believed I would be in the position I was in now. I had been an awkward girl, in the dawn of my teenage years. Now I had become a completely different person.


When my mother signed me up to be a part of a running team without me knowing, I was furious. Back then, in my opinion, running was the worst possible sport ever invented. It was boring, tiring, and difficult. The first time I ran with the team she had signed me up with, I didn’t mind the pain or the awkwardness of not knowing anyone. The kids were nice and accepted me into their group. I was able to run/walk a mile and a half with little difficulty because of the encouraging words of the coach. I kept returning and little by little, worked up enough strength to run a mile and a half straight.


About four months after I started running with the team, my coach asked me if I would consider running in the half marathon Team Fit participated in every year. I was only thirteen at the time but surprised myself when the words slipped out of my mouth to accept her offer. It was then my life began to change.


We started training in January. It was cold, wet, and uncomfortable. There were countless blizzards, pouring rain, high winds, and we could expect to arrive home with soggy shoes. Nevertheless, I felt stronger. I could now run longer distances with minimal water breaks or walking. It was hard to run, but the after effects were worth the pain and trouble. We trained for a total of three months and three weeks before the race began. I had been running a little over a year with the team when the cool morning of April 18th arrived, the day of the race. Over the past year, I had become closer to my team and felt as if they were family. I realized I ran the immense distances because I wanted to spend time with them. I loved the feeling of running without stopping, but the feelings I had for my team were far greater.
What happened the morning of the race was a blur. We met behind the middle school where we had trained in preparation for this race at 4:30 in the morning. Each member of the team put a temporary 13.1 tattoo on them to represent the distance we were running. We proceeded to carpool downtown to the finish line. We were transported by train to the university where the race actually began. We arrived at the finish line shortly after six thirty.

I was trying to run, searching frantically for a face I recognized through the swarm of people. It was so compact that I had crossed the start and still was only moving forward with a fast walk. I looked ahead and (to my surprise) spotted the black Team Fit shirts a few yards ahead. Somehow I was able to maneuver past the crowd to catch up to the select people from my group I was running with. For me, that’s where the race began.
We ran the first three miles with little difficulty and completed them in thirty minutes exactly. We hadn’t walked once which was a record for me. But, the group also split the group up at that point. Three somewhat faster girls went ahead leaving me with four others in a slow jog. We made it one more mile before one of the older girls running with us realized the youngest (who was eight at the time) looked sick. The small girl wanted to go on. We had to force her to stop for fear we would make her feel worse. We walked for the first time at the five mile mark.
Things were looking worse for the youngest of us. I had to leave her with two others while another and I ran ahead.
The distance between runners grew and mile marks and water tables seemed to become farther apart. I was losing steam and the girl I was running with noticed it too. We became farther apart and soon, she was gone. I was alone on the track at the eight mile.
Clouds gathered and things became dark. The only things bright on the dusty streets were the cheers of the crowd along the sidelines, but even those were becoming sparse. The others running beside me were too exhausted to talk or even acknowledge each other. My legs were past burning, I wasn’t able to feel them anymore. My breath was irregular and my eyesight was blurred. I came to the end of a dark and dull street and saw a park around the corner. The sun came out and a water table was placed adjacent to the nine mile marker.

I started into a slightly faster jog. I arrived at the water table and gulped down the cup of Gatorade and water, smearing it across my face. I wiped the juice off with my forearm and went ahead with a slightly improved attitude.

It didn’t last. The aches soon returned and my vision became fuzzy again. I gulped the air down, trying desperately not to think about how I yearned to walk. As I exited the park, I saw cameramen stationed at the edge. As I passed I was forced to smile despite the pain I was experiencing. The false smile soon turned genuine as I saw my dad and siblings on the corner I was headed to, stationed near the ten mile marker. They cheered me on and my dad shot picture after picture as I felt the adrenaline rush through my body. I was so close, only three miles left, only three.

I came to the next corner a mile later. My heart sank as I saw the last stretch of the race, a huge, mile and a half long incline. I had run hills, but I had never seen anything like this. I gulped as I decided to get it over with. I made it about one third of the way until my aches and pains dominated and I walked. I was surprised as I slowed down. I wasn’t running anymore and yet my legs (which I was unable to feel) kept proceeding forward at the same speed I was traveling before. Shocked, I leaned forward and ran. I had hit the point every runner craves, when you feel as though you could run forever. I smiled and felt the energy burst though my body, filling my legs with that extra ounce of energy needed to make it to the top. As I neared the top, I heard an explosion of cheers coming from my left. As I turned at the top of the hill, I saw an enormous swarm of people, including runners who had already finished lining the road. I recognized this spot as the place where we had parked that morning. I knew exactly where I was: the finish line.

I had never felt such a wave of happiness, burst of energy, or rush of adrenaline as profound as I did at that moment. I felt my legs literally carrying my body with out any prompting from me. The liveliness and exuberance from the bystanders was indescribable. I turned another corner to see the banner which signified the end of the race. I sprinted ahead with a broad smile proclaimed across my face. I heard my name being called and looked over to see my family and the part of my team which had finished rooting me on. I stepped across the finish line with a feeling of accomplishment, pride, and triumph I had never experienced before. I wasn’t aching or tired. My joy had dissolved all those feelings. I had just completed thirteen point one miles: a half marathon.





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Bethani said...
May 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm
Congrats! Great article. Very descriptive. Please check out my work. Keep writing. 
 
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