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My Journey on the Track This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Exhausted. Sore. Somnolent. Achy. That's how I feel right now. It's the final day of February; track began two days ago. Every day, the temperature settles at a frigid 40°F. My next chemistry exam is rapidly approaching. Yet, I find myself diligently going to track practice five days a week. Why?

I began my track journey just last year, the spring semester of ninth grade. By no means will I ever forget my first day of practice. It was held March first. My more experienced teammates were warmed up and enthusiastic, ready to run in their new Nike sports clothes and colorful, neon sneakers. I wore my dull gray gym uniform and a pair of no-name sneakers I'd had since fifth grade.

“Okay! Today, we're going to run a mile!” Mrs. Sorenson, our newly certified track coach, announced.

How far is a mile? I wondered. My school is located in a hilly area. The one-mile course wound through woods, a golf course, a parking lot, and the school's baseball field. When does it end? my body complained.

I completed the mile in about 20 minutes, but not without walking quite a bit. I felt dizzy, nauseous, and disoriented. I finished last. There were aches and pains in every joint of my body. How was I ever going to finish the season?

I continued to attend practice, rarely missing a day. I sprinted 200 yards at a time, ran up hills 20 times, and ran half-mile intervals without stopping. I was determined; I pushed myself to my breaking point. Baby steps, baby steps.

My first track meet was on a biting, bleak, rainy day in late March. We drove an hour to a dark, industrial area of Brooklyn. The meet included 10 schools from five New York City boroughs.

My first event was the 100-meter sprint. With my heart was pounding, I was a nervous wreck. Then the gun fired. I ran as fast as I could for 20 seconds, and then the race was over. I came in last.

However, not only did I survive my first race that day, but I made some lasting friendships. I had vibrant conversations with my track counterparts. I discovered other teenagers I could relate to in a new way – kids with the same interests. From then on, I knew that my first season wouldn't be so bad.

For the rest of the time, I competed in 100- and 200-meter sprints, along with seemingly endless relay races. Our meets were far from our school and the weather was always abominable. I practiced with 60 teammates, and fell in love with track.

I now had a new peer group. I stopped feeling isolated, my social life greatly improved, and I received a Nike uniform! With the added bonus, I have maintained a healthy weight.

Most importantly, I learned what it means to be a runner. Maybe I still come in last, but I can finally run a mile without breaks. I developed a healthy competitive spirit and learned how to mentally focus on a task. I've seen students from other schools accomplish Olympian feats; I've met future sports heroes. Track has completely transformed me as a person.

Though I traveled a lot during that summer, I made sure to run half an hour almost every day, indoors or out. During this fall, I joined the cross-country team. We upped the ante from one to three miles. No big deal. I could actually race without stopping.

“Nine minutes!” Coach Sorenson congratulated me after I had run my first mile during cross-country practice. Once or twice, I even finished our meets ahead of teammates who usually beat me. Coach observed that I'm improving every week, and I appreciate the encouragement.

“I practiced all summer,” I explained confidently.

Track has the potential to change your life and your perspective. As my team slogan states, “Running is a mental sport, and we're all insane.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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TheSkyOwesMeRainThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 19, 2013 at 1:50 am:
I love it, and I can totally relate! I'm doing track and cross country this year, and my experiences were incredible - I can honestly say that participating in these two sports was the best decision I ever made. Great work!
 
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