Live to Run This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     I thrust upward and the door of the attic budges a little. I shove it once more and it finally creaks open. As I lift and climb up the steel ladder, I can see nothing. I let my fingers crawl around the floorboards in search of the light switch. With it on, I spot boxes of priceless belongings I have not seen for years. The door drops and dust particles spread as I crawl into the third floor of my home.

The year is 2050 and my flexibility has declined since my teenage years, but I manage to grab one box. As the lid rips open, I see the label "High school." Digging in, I feel different objects. My fingers get tangled into a loop and I pull to see what I've managed to catch. My hands hold a medal.

Suddenly it is 2003. I remember walking toward the field that sticky summer day. I hold a water bottle hoping it will last through the afternoon. Many strange faces stand by the track. Excitedly, I anticipate the first day of high-school training. I greet my teammates, shaking hands with their sweaty palms. All seem more than friendly.

We wait for the coaches. Only 10 minutes have passed, but it seems as if I have known these people for a lifetime. They are going to be my brothers and sisters for the rest of my high-school life. Nervously, we stand to greet Coach Colson. I know he will become a part of my life.

"I want you to run a 72-second quarter," Coach Colson tells me during a practice later that season. "I want you to loosen up your legs before the upcoming race."

Patting me on the back, he walks to the side and gives me the signal to run. Pain streaks through my legs for all 400 meters, but I hit the time right on. He congratulates me. The first few races go all right but below my expectations. The fire inside me burns, telling me I have to do well on the next race.

After practice, Coach gathers the team. Our exhausted bodies hit the ground as he stands. He looks invincible and with the race in a just few days, I know the coach feels he must give an inspirational speech.

All he says is, "Guys, your training has been outstanding. I know you all can reach and obliterate your goals in the next race. Just keep your heads on. Remember, you get back from running what you put in. The harder you train, the harder you can race, and the better you will race." Those were the most inspirational words ever to touch my ears.

Coach Colson catches up with me and I thank him for that speech and for everything. He says, "Jason, you have the best biomechanics on the team. You have great potential and I know you will do well. Just believe in yourself and in your training."

When the day of the race came, ecstasy overtook my emotions. Everything felt great. My legs responded well, energy rushed through my body, and I looked forward to my heat. Everyone knew the 800 meters was one of the hardest races. You must have speed, but also the endurance to maintain it for two laps. As I heard the start of the girls' 800, I did some drills to loosen my legs. Walking toward the starting line, I reassured myself this was going to be a good race.

Standing a few feet from the line, I remembered my coach's speech. I put a lot of hard work into my training so I knew I would get a lot out of it from this race.

"Runners, on your marks!" the starter yelled.

As the gunshot sounded, my instincts took over. I pushed off and took a step out of the line of competitors. I stayed in my lane until I hit the 100-meter mark. As I broke for the pole, two runners shot past me. My mind was clear and I stared blankly at the loose singlet of the competitor in front of me. On the turn of the 200-meter mark, I tried swinging around but failed. I moved back into third place. I told myself to keep my head together and wait for the race to unfold.

Crossing the 400-meter mark, I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see "61" flash onto the bright clock. I was only one second off pace. The two leaders threw in a surge but I matched them. At the end of the 500-meter mark, I picked up speed and swung around into second place. I didn't want to get boxed in and not be able to strike when the time came. Lactic acid incinerated the muscles of my legs coming down the backstretch. I felt fatigue but knew I only had 250 meters to go. I paced behind first place until we hit the 600-meter mark.

Two hundred meters to go and I knew I had another gear left, maybe even two. Entering the final turn, I began to swing wide to match my competitor's step. Everyone knew running in lane two on a curve was not too smart since it wastes a ton of energy, but close races call for daring moves.

Coming out of the turn I evened up beside my rival. One hundred meters to go. My legs turned heavy. The burn seared through my legs as he matched me step for step in the final stages of the race. Fifty to go and I could feel another gear in me. My competitor gapped me a little. The time had come to dig deep. Instead of my coach's voice inside my head, I heard mine. My heart told me to push as hard as I could. I had not worked all season to lose.

All of a sudden, something sparked. Deep in my heart, I knew I would not be happy with anything but first. All I had to do was stay relaxed and not tie up in the final few meters. I kept my form and felt myself pull ahead a tad. Fifteen meters. Extraordinarily, he pulled up side by side once again. I could not give up now. My gut and mind told me I could do it. Five meters: it all came down to the final lean. I saw the tape approach and gave it my all. I shot my head forward as he did the same. The photo finish turned everyone's attention to the judges and cameras.

Just as the tape felt on my chest and neck, I put the nylon strap of the medal around my head. As the golden, steel plate hit my chest, it felt more comforting than ever. Tears of joy and remembrance of my high-school career came over me as I mutter under my breath, "First Place."

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

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the October 2004 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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