Hotel Room!

November 8, 2012
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Running as hard as I can, my lungs burning, my sides cramping, I finish the race. That is a feeling I will never forget. I participate in cross-country. This sport requires a great level of dedication. Around the last month of summer break, the training for cross-country starts. For me, the first few weeks of practice are the hardest. Just running four miles makes me want to die. Pretty soon, five miles seems to feel easy. As the team progresses through the year, we start to run up to seven miles. No matter how far I run, I don’t think seven miles will ever get easier. All of this prepares us for our races.

Since we made it out of the conference meet, the district meet came next. I don’t usually think about the race until race day, but this race was important for the team. The course is three point one miles of pure “fun.” Thirty-five minutes before the race started, we started our warm-up. First, we ran for four minutes at a slow pace. Second, we stretched for ten minutes and then ran for three at a fast pace. We went back to our tent and put on our cross country spikes.

After the team and I did our warm-up, we went to the starting line. We all huddled together and shouted “Hotel Room!” That was our shout because if we made it out of districts we would get to travel four-and-a-half hours away to regionals, and we’d get to stay in a hotel. We gathered in our starting boxes, ready to get fourth place, the minimal team placement to advance. The race official raised his gun and flag. He held them up for a few seconds, which to us seemed like years, and then fired it. Everybody emerged from the line in a dead sprint to avoid being cut off when running into the woods.

We entered into the woods and started down a narrow path. Runners were shoved and even kicked by other runners. Someone from a different team shouted, “Knock it off,” and as soon as the shoving had begun, it was over. A few minutes later, we passed the mile mark, and I noticed my time. My first mile was much faster than I had ever run before. Immediately, I knew I wasn’t going to finish with a good time.

In no time, my fears were confirmed. Just forty seconds after the first mile, my thighs tightened, and it became hard to run. It was my fault because I had been told not to run out so hard. I reached the two mile mark, and I could only think about the hills that covered the last mile. I ran through the hills, but because there were so many, it drained much of my energy. With only seven hundred meters to go, there were only two more obstacles. The trail we had to run through was completely covered in slippery, black mud, and there was one ginormous hill. With each step in the slippery mud came the hazard of falling. I made it through the mud surprisingly well. As I finished running through the muddy trails, I approached one of the steepest hills my team has ever had to run over. As I pushed over it, I thought of what my coach taught me, “Lean forward and push off your toes.” I reached the top of the hill and started down the finishing stretch. I used all the energy that was left inside me to sprint three hundred meters to the finish.

I ran out too hard, and I finished with one of my worst times: twenty minutes and twenty seconds. Because of my poor performance, I had been afraid that I had let the team down and that we might not advance to regionals. After waiting about ten minutes, we received the news of our placement: fourth place. We all jumped with excitement. We gave each other high fives to celebrate our great accomplishment. We had become the first cross country team at our school to qualify for regionals since 1993. Next is a four-and-a-half hour trip to Youngstown, Ohio, and a stay in a hotel room.

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