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

December 15, 2010
By , Bedford, KY
To my left, I see an official. To my right, another anxious team. Straight ahead is an empty course. Not just any course – the Kentucky State Cross-Country Championship course. And it's about to be torn apart by hundreds of racing spikes.

Knowing this is the last race I'll ever run with my close friends Mike and Kyle gives me a whole new mindset. In this last race of the season and their high school careers, for them, I will pull my weight to get our team on that stage.

Five and a half months of training, two months of racing twice a week, and all those memories, all come down to about 18 minutes. No pressure, huh? More like, more pressure than you can believe.

The official stands in the runners' path, flag in one hand, gun in the other. It hits me that this is really happening. No time for nerves.

“Runners, step up to the line. If there is a false start, or if someone falls within the first 100 meters, return to the line.”

I don't know how many times I've heard these directions, but this time they seem different, more important. At the sound of the whistle, the runners, like a herd of elephants, take three steps toward the line, our hearts pounding. I remember why I'm here, how I got here, and what I need to do.

The gunshot sends us off like horses in the Kentucky Derby. Getting out hard and fast is critical. If I've heard it once, I've heard it 30 times: Get out hard. Not too hard, but fast enough that you won't be trapped in the back. The first mile is run with your brain. And just like that, we're at the first mile marker. 5:31. My thoughts: Too slow; move faster.

Hearing the crowd is indescribable. Goose bumps cover my body. Picking up speed, I begin mile two. I need to get back on pace. Mile two is run with your heart. Move up now; this where you have to stay strong mentally. After advancing a few places, I feel excellent.

I'm almost finished with mile two. Quick math tells me I slowed down by about 15 seconds. I'm not feeling so great. Coach is quite the sight, jumping outrageously, yelling at the top of his lungs. I know I have to catch up, but my legs feel weighed down and I feel a side stitch coming on.

The third mile is all about your guts. I'm tired and hurting, but I have to keep going. I think about the Steve (“Pre”) Prefontaine quote: “I'm going to work so that it's a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.” I know I'm not going to win, but I will win the race with myself.

Staying motivated, I pick up the pace and start to kick. I have to go now. Giving everything I have is what I'll do.

I see the finish line getting closer. To avoid vomiting, I try to swallow, which only makes it worse. I sprint as hard as I can. Just a bit more and I can stop, shut out the world, rest.

Just like that, the race is over. Barely making it through the chute, I cling to Coach to stay upright. Tears fill my eyes.

“You did all you could, Conner.”

Hardly able to speak, I mutter, “No. It wasn't enough.”

Judging by my teammates' faces, I can tell we didn't do as well as we hoped. I can't help but blame myself, despite their supportive remarks. I apologize repeatedly for not pulling my weight.

We end up placing sixth overall, making us Public School State Champs again. It's not what I was hoping for, but that's okay. I would trade a trophy for my team any day. They are my best friends. My family. My life.

What do we do now? Live in the past? Write personal narratives about doing what you love most with the people you love most? About friends becoming best friends? About the season of 2010 and how much it meant to us? Sure. I guess so.

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

Join the Discussion

This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

kjeezy10 said...
Mar. 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm
Summary   The author reflects on running at the Kentucky State Cross Country Championships, where he is competing with his team.  He runs the first mile with his legs, the second mile with his heart, and the third with his guts.  He doesn’t do as well as he’d liked to, but is still proud of his team.    Reaction   I agree with the author that it’s not a good feeling to feel like you let your team down because you know that you could hav... (more »)
garfield fan said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 3:15 pm
Great Job!  I always thought you were just one us "math people" but you have proven to be much more.
TheMoore117 said...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 6:55 am
This is absolutely awesome! I'm going to most likley write a letter to the Team/Coach, or both at the end of this season, thanking Jeff/Everyone.
K-teacher said...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 8:18 pm
Wow, this is great Conner.  Your descriptive writing caused me to be out of breath as I tried to breathe for you and push you across the finish line in time.  I am so proud of your writing. 
Mrs. Kunselman said...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Great job, Conner!  This is a very nice personal narrative.  I love the descriptions of how to approach each mile (brains, heart, guts).  Congratulations!
Nykki7 said...
Mar. 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm
First of all, holy cow that that's your event. Second, that was really well written. Nice job.  :)
auntsally said...
Dec. 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm
Moving!  I feel it all with you.
tcrunninraider replied...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm
Very well written article, Conner!  I'm proud of you!

Coach Vincent (the jumping up and down, yelling coach...lol)
Christian's dad replied...
Apr. 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm
Connor -- very well written!  Nice job.  From one of those guys that used to jump up and down --- well guess I still do as a parent.
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