The Race This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Darn, why does this always happen? I'm standing atthe start, surrounded by other runners all anticipating the fateful shot thatwill begin a mass sprint, and then I doubt my ability to measure up. I think,What right do I have to compete against some of the finest cross-country runnersin the state? A minute before, I was fired up and ready to go, but my doubtdeflates all optimism and hope. Instead, my head fills with thoughts of pastfailures, pain, weakness and loneliness. I wait for that gun, and I combine allthose memories into the image of the worst possiblerace.

BANG!

***

Zzzap! The bolt shot across the sky, hittingsomewhere nearby. I knew the scariest sound in the whole world would come soon,as it did after every flash. I sat on the floor in the middle of the room with myeyes squeezed shut, too scared even to run to Mommy. The noise came. I opened myleft eye, just to make sure I could still see. Then, I opened the other one. Ifelt a little better, but I knew the lightning would come again.

I lookedaround the family room; to my right, the white lamps at each end of the colorfulcouch were on. I wanted to be on that comfortable sofa but I wasn't brave enoughto move. Through the sliding door I could see the rain pouring and the lightningflashing. Next to the slider, my mommy stood in the dark, where the light didn'treach, talking on the phone with that nice doctor. Those two lamps brightenedonly half of the room. The darkest, scariest place was the front door, which ledto the terrible flashing outside.

A quick movement caught my eye; I sawMommy glance at me, then look away. I kept looking at her. I could barely hearher over the tick-tocking of the clock. I couldn't tell what she was saying, butI could hear an unfamiliar waver in her voice. She was worried about something. Iwanted to know what, but my terror wouldn't let me move. Slowly, she hung up thephone and sighed. Then she composed herself and looked at me. I didn't know whatto do under those stony eyes. I had never seen my mother frightened before.Slowly, she moved into the light as she came toward me.

She told me Iwould have to go out into the terrible storm. She took my hand, stood me up, andwe walked to the front door. I headed out cautiously, then ran to the car. Wewere going to All Children's Hospital.

***

Caught up in my lack ofhope, I am not prepared, and the pack jumps ahead. Despairing at my poor start, Iforget to pace myself and sprint all out. I swiftly pass most of my opponents.Nimbly, I round a tree and find myself with only the two best runners in front ofme. My burst of speed invigorates my soul; I see myself so far forward that Ibelieve I can achieve anything.

Unfortunately, such a fast beginningleads to a long, difficult end. I feel my legs begin to slow even before I feelthe pain. Then it comes, piercing my legs with an unmatched ferocity. Soon,runners begin to pass me as I slow to a pace I can maintain for the rest of therace.

***

"What did the doctor say, Mommy? What did he say,Daddy? Why won't you tell me," I whined.

"It's not that we won'ttell you, we will, but ... " Daddy's voice trailed off as we walked towardthat gray tower of windows I had learned to be terrified of. We plodded across aparking lot, a place of little life, of little hope. The gray sky didn't help mymood. I knew I had some sickness, but I didn't know what and assumed I would die.What hope I had depended on my mommy and daddy telling me I would live. Byrefusing to tell me what was wrong, they made my hope dwindle.

"Justtell me," I half-sobbed, half-yelled. My mommy couldn't take the agony, soshe broke the news.

"Okay, the doctor said ... well ... he said youhave cancer."

"Cancer," I whispered, disheartened."What's that?" One look at my parents again put me in doubt about mylife. Then my head hurt, as it had a lot over the last few weeks. I began to sob.I couldn't help it. My knees started to shake. I fell to the wet ground inweakness and pain. I hated the way I felt. I wanted to behealthy.

***

One step at a time. That's the only way to reach thefinish. I look down at my burning feet. I place one in front of the other,carefully choosing my path. Pain sears up my right leg, adding to the agonycaused by the cramp in my side. What could I have been thinking when I had thatgreat, greasy pizza for lunch? It might just end up on the ground at the end ofthe race - if I make it to the end. I see a tree ahead, followed by a tighthairpin turn. I can't slow down too much, since at this point I'll never get thespeed back. I wheel around the turn and see ... another long, open, sunny road -I'll never finish. Let's see, if I remember the map correctly, the finish is justin the forest ahead!

Revitalized by the prospect of the end, I sprint,ready for water, rest and revitalization. I finish the race in 20 minutes flat.My time stinks, my team loses and I am demoralized from running such a bad race.But I know I will race again, and I know that in those races I will never stopuntil I reach the end.

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






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