As I crossed the George Washington Bridge I awoke from my nap. The cold and loud school bus wasn’t the best place to sleep but I knew that I needed the energy. We were crammed into this space shoulder to shoulder with the hope and charisma to run faster than our previous times. Today was the second meet of the winter track season, but to my misfortune this would be my first. I knew I would likely be disappointed because of the general inexperience and prolonged period since my last track meet. It’s been over a year since my great freshman year where I exceeded my expectations.
We arrived at 216 Fort Washington Ave in New York City, the Armoury. This track was the pinnacle of indoor tracks in the nearby tri-state area. It was the home of multiple state and local records spanning from highschool to college. The three story brick building featured an elevated 200 meter track and hundreds of seats for the participants. This was my 4th time at the building and I became very familiar with the layout and how the events operated. I went up four flights of spiral metal stars and was meet with the countless rows of seats right above the track. I was meet with schools all the way from Brooklyn to Paramus that were present to compete. The team walked generally to the same area as the previous competition, I put our stuff down and prepared to get our events. I knew I roughly had an hour before I had to run so I would have to stretch and mentally prepare.
Coach got everyone aside and started telling us our events. My name was called and I was given a card to run the 200 hundred meter and the 55 meter dash.
“These aren’t my events” I protested.
I was confused and angry, I have never been very proficient at the short distance sprints. I went to my coach and asked if I could do a 400 meter, an event which I believe to be my best. In my freshman year I ran it in 57.8 seconds, almost breaking the varsity requirement of 57 seconds and under. During this time I believed that this was one of the best things I could do, little did I know that this would be my downfall.
Once my event and ticket were submitted I had to prepare for the 55 meter dash. I grabbed my yellow bag which contained my shoes and started to screw in the 14 silver spikes. Once I finished and started heading down to the track a loudspeaker said, “Due to the circumstances and division, spikes will no longer be allowed”. I was furious, taking the spikes and screwing them in took at least 5 minutes. My race would start soon and I would have to rush to take them out. This race I expected nothing and I got nothing. Next up would be my big shot, the 400 meter, a race of will rather than speed. I was excited and worried at the same time. I wanted to impress myself and my coaches. Again over the loudspeaker an unclear voice said, “Boys Novice 400 Meters”. My teammates and I went over to the gate where they would check people in. The officials were doing a spike check, I was fine because I didn’t have any in at the time. When it was my turn I showed the bottom of my shoe.
The lady said, “You can’t use those, they are plastic bottoms”
My heart shrank, I was shocked. I ran the race before in these shoes with no repercussions on the same track. My teammates got in with similar shoes. My heart was racing and I have little time before the race.
I confusingly said, “These are rubber”
“I’ve been working here for 17 years, I know the difference between rubber and plastic” She yelled.
I had no other option. I ran up to the team and grabbed my white sneakers, leaving my spikes behind. I rushed down to the event so I would not be late. In most circumstances, I would not be too angry about the condition of my shoes but this was different. The shoe was half a size to large, tied incorrectly and not meant to be sprinted in.
“This is not going to end well,” I said multiple times.
All I got back at me were indistinctive laughs. I knew I was over before I started but I still went along with it. I stepped up to the racing block, 5 other boys near the same age and time next to me. My breathing and heart rate increased, I was ready to run.
“Ready” The official yelled.
My hands were sweaty and shaking.
I haven’t started yet, it's already over. Then the gun fired. Bang! I started my stride out of the curve. Suddenly I no longer felt my shoe, it fell off. I was angry and irritated. That woman caused this. I have never felt this much hatred to a person I barely knew. To my luck during the two laps I ran, my shoe only fell off three times. I didn’t come in last but I was last. I never felt this pent-up type of anger, I couldn’t do anything. I just had to deal with it and move on. Exhausted and furious I walked off the track and back onto the seating area. I knew if I had my spikes I would have easily won my heat. I was ashamed. I packed my things and came home disappointed. That season I was never able to redeem myself.