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Go Until Your Wheels Fall Off

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The October sun seemed to beat down harder with each step I took. Little by little, I knew I was breaking down. I looked up to see my two cross-country coaches standing a few yards down the course yelling advice to the numerous runners passing by.

“You got mile one down, now the race really begins! You guys got to get out of a pack!” One of them yelled at the eight Park City girls that were running together.

At that moment, two of the girls broke away from the pack, while the other six picked up the pace. At this moment I had to make a decision, would I be strong and fight my way into the pack of seven girls who who would be running on varsity for the State Championship Cross-country Meet, or would I let the weakness in my legs and nauseous feeling in my stomach get the best of me in this split second? The choice slipped between my fingers as I watched the seven other girls pull away from me, leaving me with nothing but a cloud of dust and thoughts of wondering why I was doing this and what was wrong with me.

I had been on varsity the entire season, in the top five in most of the races, so what was I doing now running in eighth place? I was failing that’s what. Negative thoughts clotted my mind as I ran the second mile, I just couldn’t move my legs any faster.

Things went from bad to worse on the Quinn’s Junction Region 5k as I was passed by three more girls in the last mile that had never come close to beating me in any other races. I observed, but didn’t react as each one of these girls passed me. My legs felt heavy and uncoordinated, nothing in my body felt good. I ran by my parents and coaches feeling awful and embarrassed. It was quiet as I passed with no cheering.

I finished 11th on the Park City team, The worst I had ever finished and the slowest I had ever run. This meant that I wasn’t going to the State Meet, the most important race of the season and the thing that I had run everyday since June for.

I crossed the finish line and practically fainted from exhaustion. The faces of familiar people blurred across my eyes. I gained my breathe back eventually just as my dad approached. He half smiled at me as I looked at him and gave him a hug with absolutely nothing to say.

“What happened?” He asked curiously as I pulled away.

My throat suddenly locked up. This was the last thing I wanted to hear right now. Tears started pouring down my face as I struggled to speak with some dignity but failed.

“Shut up! I don’t want to talk to you!” I squealed then cried out in sobs. I stumbled away from him in search of my mom who would surely give me the comfort that I needed. When I found her her face looked sad and somber. Because I expected her to be the ideal forgiving mother, the only thing that I saw from her expression was disappointment, and that made my heart sink.

I gave her a long hug and cried into her shoulder. Still she didn’t react quite in the “Oh Sweetheart it’s totally fine!” manor that I wanted her to, but it would do for now.

One of my coaches approached me to talk and I unwillingly listened.

“Listen Sophie, you are a great runner and this type of thing happens to everyone. You had a great season until now, and I bet next year you will be winning these type of races.” He said trying to cheer me up.

I shook my head.

“I don’t know if I’m running next year.” I couldn’t even imagine going through the same type of humiliation again next year.

He looked surprised and unhappy.

“Well, I hope you do, because we need you.”

I was done talking.

I stood again with my mom and she tried to convince me to go apologize to my dad who was wandering around the team gathering area most likely wondering what he had done wrong to get me to say such vicious things. I didn’t care much though at the time and I was more focused on another person who was wandering around near me; my fellow running and cross-country skiing teammate, Kyle. He watched with what I thought was a look of urgency and empathy on his face. I assumed that he felt bad for me and wanted to comfort me.

Just then my dad approached.

“Let’s get out of here.” He said as if he had a bitter taste in his mouth.

Without apologizing or saying anything, I grabbed my bag and left, wondering what Kyle would have said to me if we had gotten a change to talk.

The car ride home was pretty much silent. I don’t really remember it, besides having the sick feeling of failure fill my broken heart. Once at my house, I put my bag inside than made the declaration to my mom that I was going to go for a walk. She thought that was a good idea.

I walked along the pavement of my neighborhood with only the sound of my flip flops slapping the ground. I decided to walk up a trail that is right across the street from my house and find somewhere quiet to think. I found a small tree surrounded by tall, yellow grasses that had been partially matted down from animals sleeping there and sat down. For a moment, I just sat, thinking about what had just happened. Without warning, a certain thought sent me into a spiral of emotions as I burst out crying. My own mom was disappointed in me. I think that particular thought hit me so hard because my mom has always been my best friend and the one I go for when I am looking for guidance or a helping hand. The idea that the one person who had been there for me for every second of my life until now simply baffled me.

I cried for an hour or two, maybe three, until the sun started fading in the sky and I decided I should head back to my house. On the way back, I don’t know what hit me but tears started filling my eyes again and I slipped into a near by construction port-a-potty and cried some more not holding anything back.

I opened the door to my house half expecting my parents to be worried about where I had been. An itch of disappointment crept over me when I found them downstairs watching TV together. I awkwardly stood for a moment with them not acknowledging me until they got the hint and muted the voice coming from the television.

I cleared my throat and then spoke.

“Im sorry that I was rude to you earlier.” I said to my dad.

He accepted my apology and said that he understood, but that I needed to understand that him and my mom had put a lot of effort into my running and to make me faster.

I felt like I had taken a large weight off of my shoulders, but still I felt sad and heavy. That night I stayed up late, until about 1 or 2 in the morning writing in my journal; something that I didn’t do very often. I flashed back to earlier that day when I had mentioned to my mom that I wished that I had gotten to talk to Kyle after the race and my dad had overheard me.

“I think Kyle’s a dick.” He hissed.

I looked at him in complete shock. He explained to me that while I was racing he had asked Kyle if I had gone by yet and Kyle had replied with something like,

“No, she’s way back there.”

It had hit me hard to hear this. That night I wrote about it. I wrote about my parents and how I knew they were still mad at me. I wrote about how my mom was still awake downstairs probably thinking about the exact same thing as I was. I swore at the world and everyone in it, then slowly I drifted into an alternate world, one that was much more pleasant.
Morning:
I awoke to a phone call. My mom was talking in a hurried voice in the other room so I listened in. I heard my own name come out of her mouth and connected it to the sentence.

“No, she just gave up half way through. She’s definitely not running next year.”

My stomach dropped with nausea. I ran to the bathroom feeling the tears rolling down my face. I needed to do something to get all of my feelings out. I shut the door to my room and locked the door, something that good little Sophie would never do. The next hour of my life was probably the darkest 60 minutes that I have had so far. I never want to look back on that.
Midday:
I sat on my computer staring blankly at the screen. Both of my parents were also in the room looking at their computers. Suddenly I heard my mom’s voice break the long, drawn-out, silence.

“So Steve, I think I’m gonna call Gordo and try and get the money back for the ski season.”

This time my heart dropped. You see, cross-country skiing is my passion. It is my favorite thing in the world. I had only done the whole running thing to stay in shape for the ski season. I took a second to try and understand what my mom was saying. Did she really just say that she was going to get the money back from my coach for ski training this year?

Right there, I burst out crying. I stood up and raged towards my mom.

“You b****! You can’t do that! You can’t take away everything, my EVERYTHING!” I screamed, the tears just streaming now.

“So what if I had one bad race?! I’m sorry!”

My mom looked at me calmly with a sad look upon her face.

“I just don’t think you are cut out for competing in sports. I think you’re more of a recreational athlete.”

I simply could not believe my ears. Going to the Olympics is my dream and a goal I work towards everyday, I knew, or at least I thought I knew that I had some kind of talent as an athlete. Shaking my head and glaring at my mom I left the room, then left the house. I ran up my driveway dialing my grandma’s phone number. When she picked up the phone my voice was still cracking.

“Grandma? You need come and get me, they are being really mean.” I mumbled through sobs.

She said that she would be there in a few minutes.
I sat at the top of my long driveway chucking rocks in the direction towards my house, knowing that I was way too far away to actually hit it. I didn’t care what the construction workers down the street thought as I paced and cried out. I was done with this.

Finally, my grandma showed up and told me to get in the car. We drove to the bottom of my neighborhood and a disappointed feeling engulfed me as we pulled into an empty Deer Valley parking lot. I was ready to go to my grandma’s house in Salt Lake to get away from my parents. Heck, I was ready to go anywhere to get away from my parents.

“Now, I’m gonna give you a few minutes to think about what happened, then you can tell me if you want to. Slowly, I told my grandma the story, leaving out a few select things. After I was done, she played and inspirational song called Things are Gonna Get Better by David Archuleta. I listened willingly even though it wasn’t as comforting as I would have liked. The song finished and my grandma handed me phone.

“You need to call your mom and tell her exactly what you just told me.” She said

“I can’t. She won’t listen.” I argued.

“Well, you’ve gotta try. Just talk to her about it.”

I swallowed back another excuse and with my fingers shaking, dialed the number.

The phone rang and my mom picked up.

“Hello?” She answered in a completely normal voice.


I didn’t know what to say.

“Um, hi this is Sophie.” I said pathetically.

The phone went silent for a few seconds.

“Where are you calling from?” My mom asked.

“Grandma Dottie’s car, but we are just sitting in a parking lot.”

“Tell her that she can’t take you anywhere. You can’t just go to her house and let her fuss over you.”

I rolled my eyes.

“I know.”

The phone went quiet again.

“So why are you calling?” She asked.

Here we go...

“I, I really don’t think that I am ready to say sorry to you yet, but I probably should, so I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if I’m ready to say sorry to you yet either, but I guess I’m sorry.”

Once again the phone line went quiet.

“Come home right now though” My mom spoke.

“Okay.”

The phone went silent for good and I handed the phone to my grandma. I could see a glint of light through the darkness.
Night:

My mom was feeling a bit better and so was I after we had gotten some exercise. I still didn’t say much to her, but I could feel things getting better. I stayed in my room just sitting there for a few hours knowing that the worst was over and finally took a moment to relax and realize that the running season was over. Hallelujah.

The Lesson:

Looking back on that day hurts, but it makes everything that has happened since then seem that much more sweet. Just a few weeks ago was this season’s Region cross-country meet and I came in as the number 1 girl on the Park City team. Only a few days ago I competed in the State meet and got 11th place in the 3A race and contributed to my team’s winning score. As of now, Kyle and I are a happy couple and have been through a lot together since that day. And my mom and I are as close as can be. I forgive her for everything and understand that her sadness for me affected her a lot stronger than I had expected. That day taught me that perseverance is everything in life. That going through struggle only makes you stronger. I learned that you should never take those who love you for granted, love them back. Perhaps the most important thing I learned is to forgive and forget. If you dwell on the bad stuff, it’s almost impossible to move on. No matter what hard stuff you are dealing with in your life, know that time is on your side and that things will get better.





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