BAM! The gun went off, and everyone started to run. I rounded the curve, adrenaline flowing through my veins. Before the race, I had been sitting up in the bleachers, burning under the sweltering heat of the sun. I had been nervous, unable to stop thinking about the race, but trying to act like I was fine and completely confident. I tried to tell myself that I would be okay. After all, I had run on this exact track the day before, and this would be no different. As the race had gotten nearer, the anxiousness got worse, but the second that gun went off, all of my fatigue and all of the nerves simply disappeared. Instinct took over my body and nothing went through my head except for one single number: 4:55. That was the time to beat; the eighth grade one mile record; my goal for the last few months. Only four laps of pain and I would have my name on the record board. Even if the record didn’t stay there forever, I would always know what I had accomplished. So, I continued to push myself, flying around the track, with adrenaline running through my veins and thoughts of a record running through my mind. With every step, I dug my spikes into the rubber of the track and propelled myself forward with every ounce of strength I had. The shoulders of my too big tank top jersey began slipping off of my skinny shoulders, but I payed no mind, as I was too focused on the task at hand. My concentration showed on my face, which was set like a stone in a fixated expression. My eyes were squinted, as if to hone in on a single thing, but I wasn’t actually paying attention to what my eyes were seeing. I had a clear mind, with my only focus being to give my all. One lap went by in a blur, and transitioned right into the second, which flowed right into the third. Near the end of this lap, I lost the lead that I’d had the whole time. With about 200 meters left, I was just behind the first place runner. At this point I had a decision to make. Was it really worth the pain just to beat that record and win the race? To me at that point, the answer was yes, because after all the work I had put in preparing for this exact moment, I couldn't give up now.
“You have to go now!" I heard my dad yell.
All of the memories of workouts, practices, and mental preparation flooded into my mind at once. Just days ago, I had been at the track working out with my dad.
“Okay, so what’s the plan for the workout?” he asked.
“I want to do eight 600’s all at race pace,” I answered. I had been planning for exactly that for the last few days.
“Sounds good. You ready?”
“On your marks… GO!”
I started to run, getting a feel for my brand new spikes, which made my feet feel lighter than ever. I could run way faster in these! The first 600 was easy. The second was harder, and during the last straightaway, pain crept into my legs. In each one, it got worse and worse. After the seventh 600 I felt spent, but I told myself there was only one to go and I would be able to put everything I had left into it. From the second I started, it burned. Would I even make it? I made it, within a second of the time I was going for, then all of the sudden my dad surprised me.
“Let’s do another one,” he said.
I didn’t know what to think. I was done. I didn’t have to do anymore. “W-w-w-what?” I sputtered, “That wasn’t the plan!”
Then, my dad told me, “All of the other runners are probably at home right now, sitting on the couch and playing video games. This right here is why you can win the race."
“Do I have to do it?” I asked.
“It’s your choice."
I walked slowly over to the starting point of the track, considering my options. Running one more was the right thing to do, the choice that would make me better and fill me with pride. But it would be painful. “I can’t do it,” I decided.
I recalled this and I was ashamed of the choice I made, but right here I had a chance to change all of that. This was my chance to prove myself to myself, so I began to sprint halfway around the curve with 150 meters to go. By the end of the curve, I was in first, and I had caught the other runner by surprise. My legs were on fire, and then they went numb. Time is a funny thing. A minute ago, it was flying by at superspeed, but now just the opposite was happening. Time seemed to stop as I continued sprinting across the seemingly endless straightaway, unwilling to let him pass me. The crowd was probably roaring, awaiting a photo finish, but I couldn’t hear anything in the zone I was in now. I used pure willpower to pump my legs and arms up and down, like a machine, fueled by the fear of letting him catch me. I pushed myself to the limit, and slowly, I approached the light at the end of the tunnel, the finish. Finally, I crossed the line. 4:48.
Even though it was about eighty degrees outside, when I saw the time, chills ran down my spine and an enormous grin spread across my face. When I got out of the finish shoot, I turned around to say, “Good job,” to some of the runners that I had talked to before the race. I couldn’t believe what I had just achieved. Actually, I could. Looking back on the dedication I had put into this in the last few months and especially the last week, it made sense. I felt like nothing else mattered now and I could always be happy just knowing that I accomplished what I set out to do. In those five minutes running the mile, I found who I really was. My will is very strong when I have the right motivation and with a big goal in mind, I will put my heart and soul into accomplishing it.