I raced in my first ever 5K race during my sixth grade year, and I came in first place with a time of twenty-one minutes and ten seconds. Hours later, my great grandma died of the deadly cancer leukemia, which makes it harder for the body to fight infections. I was at my dad’s house when it happened, and I did not know that it happened.
When my mom picked me up at my dad’s house, she said, “We need to have a serious talk.” I was shocked, and I didn’t know what to say. “Great Grandma passed away a couple hours after your race,” she told me. I started bawling.
I felt as if I wasn’t able to spend enough time with her, I thought.
One year later, I won my first ever cross-country invite, the same weekend my great grandma died. The same weekend I raced and won my first 5K. My confidence was boosted, and I felt as if nothing could stop me. I was now training with the top runners on the high school team and running faster than I have ever before. Coming into the GMC race, I was the underdog, but we had a race tactic ready to go.
“To win GMCs, you need to draft off of the Hicksville kid. Once you hit 800 meters left, you need to pick it up and pass him. Then pick it up harder at 500 and 300 meters, just like we do out on the streets to train. He’s never done it before, and he won’t be able to hang with you,” Coach Mix told me.
The race took off, and I took my spot right behind him, drafting off of him like NASCARs at the Daytona 500, and we pulled away from the rest of the field. First mile down and everything was looking perfect. I was still trailing right behind him; he was burning more energy than I was as he broke the wind. The eight hundred meter mark came sooner than ever, and I took the lead. He took off with me as the pace of the race increased even more. With 500 meters left, I pushed the pace harder and broke him. I won the race by eleven seconds coming in with a new personal record of eleven minutes and eight seconds.
Coach Miller came up to me after the race and said, “Congratulations, Noah! You just broke the school record by a second!” I was exhausted after the race like I just finished a marathon.
About a week later was the Junior High State Cross Country Meet. I went back to my dad’s house a couple of nights, before so we could head to Columbus the next morning.
I arrived to my dad’s house, and he said, “Hey, I got something for you,” as he handed me the present. “This is an early Christmas present since you won GMCs last week.” It was a GPS watch that tracked my pace and distance during the middle of a run.
“Thank you, Dad. I love you!” I told him.
The watch fit around my wrist perfectly. Light glistened off of it like snow sparkling as it falls from the sky.
The next day we went down and jogged the course, my first of hundreds of runs with that watch. With the meet being the next day, there were many workers prepping the course for the big day. I didn’t really have a race strategy coming in; it was just to try to go out at a good pace and keep it the rest of the way.
The gun fired, and we took off. I was stuck in the pack early on, and I was in about twentieth place. I worked my way up and up as people began dying off through the race. I raced up into about fifth place and started my kick. I made it past two runners quickly and moved up into third place. The leaders were too far away. I took third place and broke my own school record with a time of ten minutes and forty-nine seconds.
Running with the new watch pushed me to new limits by watching my pace every single second of my workouts, trying to make each mile faster than the last.