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Like a heavy raindrop, just about to slide down a waterfall window- hands shake, quiver, and sweat. Feet, laced up in shoes like air, shuffle anxiously from side to side, like a hot roll between unsuspecting hands. I wonder why people call it ‘butterflies’ because it feels so much more like an avalanche. It’s funny how my heart is beating fast, like desperate hands on a keyboard, yet it feels like an aching stone. Shannon comes sprinting down lane one. Her face is a curtain of pain. I slowly begin to accelerate as her arm extends to thrust the baton in to my hand. For less than a second, it’s like God touching man- a swirl of gold metal and a common goal connect us.
I am very aware of the first turn. I always am. I allow my body to tilt, like branches hugging the wind, and lean in towards the smooth curve of the track. Toes pound the ground and I feel my eyebrows furrow. I concentrate on my legs. They feel as if they were meant to do this.
The first straightaway. Ahead of me, neon flats and a frantic pony tail press forward. I pump my arms and let my legs fall faster, faster. We are a mirror- same tortured breath and desperate legs. We want the same thing. Who wants it more?
I scream at my legs to carry me, faster, faster. I leave the panting girl behind and push forward.
Second turn. The adrenaline is shouting at me almost louder than the crowd is. While I become parallel with the next girl, I notice her c*** her head quickly, whispering a secret glance at me. I do not turn to stare back at her. I feel like a train. Everything is so heavy. Faster, faster. I pass her.
It’s the final straightaway. The last 100 meters. The lights are like the sun. The track is glowing red. It’s seems to express urgency, alarm. My knees feel as if they’ve been pressed against the tiled kitchen floor. My quads feel as if they’ve embraced fire. My legs are like boulders as they push faster, faster. The cheers of the bleachers seem distant as I am suddenly surrounded by breathing. My heart skips as I realize that the girl with the neon flats and desperate breaths has an amazing kick, and has come to reclaim her lead.
Everything feels like slow motion. In this moment I would trade my life to stop running. We are a mirrors once again. So close our elbows may meet as they preform their last tired pumps. My legs curse me but they do not stop, faster, faster. But not fast enough. She passes me with only a few steps to go.
My arm whips forward to pass the baton to Remie. We meet eyes briefly to confirm the exchange, and she turns and takes off. The race is not over.
Me and the other girls are ushered off the track. Although seconds ago, we were sworn enemies, we now sprinkle each other with hasty ‘good jobs’ and ‘nice race.’ I feel broken. I had managed to pass two girls, but being passed back feels like breathing in smoke. I turn back to the track and attempt to catch my breath. I have given it my all, yet I feel cheated.
I watch as Remie ascends down the last stretch. She stumbles across the finish line and is absorbed in her own analysis of her race. She has beaten the relay that beat me.
My lips are drawn into a smile. Our efforts stitched together with careful hands, have presented us with triumph. Pushing your hardest may not get you what you immediately intended, but your efforts may contribute to the final result.
My coach walks towards me toting his clipboard and timer.
“Fantastic Devin!” He grins.
“She passed me back,” I spit.
“You were pushing. I could tell. 64.8 seconds.”
64.8 seconds? That’s a personal record.