Somewhere inside me, I always knew that long distance running wasn’t the most popular amongst my fellow twelve-year-old peers at school. They typically spent their after school hours sitting in their comfortable homes eating snacks and rushing through their homework. However, that was what my equally reckless acquaintances, Damin Choi and Tamara Barilo, and I were doing every day after school when we joined the cross country team.
Aside from having the small acknowledgment of the fact that long distance running was going to be very difficult, my two friends and I had very little in common. In fact, we were quite opposites. I was not that enthusiastic about running since I was being forced by my mom to join the cross country team, while Damin and Tamara joined the team because they thought it was going to be adventurous and new. Still, we got along with no problem despite our differences, and my two friends tried their best to convince me that long distance running wasn’t going to be that bad.
However, the second I heard about the Vienna Night Run, all the hopeful thoughts about cross country being all right was completely shattered.
The Vienna Night Run is a five kilometer marathon-like race that took place in Vienna, Austria. It was one of the many events that our cross country team participated in annually. Five kilometers sounded pretty easy to most; but like the song title by the Essex states, “easier said than done”.
“Amy, don’t give up on me!” bellowed my coach.
Like an overheated dog, I ran panting and gasping for air. I ran as fast as my enervated legs could carry me while behind me, my cross country coach named Mr. Forsgren jogged along.
Since our cross country team were all running outside in the middle of the autumn, Damin, Tamara, and I were so freezing that our hands and feet got numb. Breathing out the chilly night air that was visible in the corner of my eye, I screamed, “Seriously? Why does the Night Run have to take place in the middle of autumn and not in spring or something!”
Of course, the others around me couldn’t hear that since I screamed it in my head, not out loud. If I had actually screamed that out loud, Mr. Forsgren was surely going to launch into one of his long, boring speeches on why we couldn’t complain about the running in the middle of a very cold autumn night. Needless to say, I didn’t want to hear any of that and neither did my two already half-dead friends who were struggling to breathe in deeply. I tasted crisp, autumn air as I ran and shivered as the coldness of the air bit into my smooth skin.
And, what was more astonishing and fascinating at the same time was that Mr. Forsgren wasn’t sweating a single bit while all the people around him, including us for sure, were sweating and panting like a bunch of inelegant dogs.
I considered myself unlucky for having Mr. Forsgren right behind me as I ran. Others were running at their own pace peacefully, while my two friends and I were getting shouted at and getting pushed on further. He would always bark at the top of his lungs, telling us to keep it up until we got to the finish line. However, whenever he gave us a short break from his constant barking, I would feel like I was in heaven; even if it was just for a millisecond or two.
Right then, the only thing in my mind was how heavenly it would feel to just stop running. At last, I would be able to catch a breath or two and rest.
Despite all that, though, I didn’t stop, even though all the pain in my legs and my poor lungs were overpowering. The fact that Damin and Tamara running alongside me helped me to not give up too, since even though they didn’t look any better than I did, they kept encouraging me to not give up and stop only when we reach the finish line.
So, I kept going and going until it was too much work to even lift my head. I kept running and running until my legs almost gave out under me. I kept pushing myself until I felt like throwing up. My eardrums were surely going to explode by the deafening sound of my feet thumping against the level, polished gravel and my vigorously beating heart felt like exploding from my sweat covered chest.
Of course, Mr. Forsgren didn’t know that and just kept on hollering louder and louder to keep going since we were close to the finish line. None of us believed him though. He had already told us that we were close to the finish line countless times before, which were all lies in the end. Therefore, we didn’t believe that this one was true either.
But still, I somehow made my exhausted body to keep going. Damin and Tamara all the while kept encouraging me, who was on the verge of giving up, to keep going till the end as well.
After what seemed like forever, I finally saw it.
The finish line.
The finish line that Mr. Forsgren kept on talking to us about. The finish line that waved at me invitingly. The finish line that signified the end of our torturous running.
Overjoyed and proud of myself for not giving up, I smiled triumphantly and pumped my hands and feet harder than before. I already couldn’t feel my hands and feet, but with my eyes fixated on the finish line where spectators were cheering and encouraging the runners and where countless cameras flashed, I couldn’t care any less. Also, even though I was blinded by the continuously flashing cameras I didn’t mind one single ounce of it.
I ran like my life depended on it; in fact, my life actually did depend on it because if I stopped now when the end was so near, I wouldn’t hear the end of Mr. Forsgren’s lecture and scolding and that was certainly not what I wanted after this torture.
With my eyes glued to the finish line, I got closer and closer to the finish line until at last, my feet made contact with the finish line.
And, it was all over.
Everything that happened next was a blur to me as I grinned from ear to ear. I hugged my two friends, Damin and Tamara, who were the main reason I didn’t give up till the very end, and laughed along with them. They too, had felt the great pleasure and satisfaction when our feet finally made contact with the finish line.
The pleasure and satisfaction wasn’t there because I had finally finished the run. They were there because of the one fact that I hadn’t given up till the end.
Realizing this, I realized something very important: it didn’t matter that other twelve-year-old peers were resting in their warm homes, watching videos and having their family leisure time without a care in the world. They didn’t get to feel this satisfaction, this happiness, or any of the other indescribable emotions I felt at the time. These feelings I felt was far more precious than being in a cozy home. These feelings couldn’t be bought by money but could be only obtained when a person actually stands up to his or her difficulties and face them, not run away from them.
It was a choice; a choice to either give up or to get up.