The First Real Race

May 3, 2017
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Utter hate, oh how I did not want to run! My teacher and soccer coach, Mr.B, had stared me cold in the eye, "Mariana if you quit cross country, you quit soccer." So here I was, at a meet a year later, after the horrible scarring sixth grade season in painful anticipation. I was in the tent looking down the course, Tropical Park, with its nasty hill which I had to suffer through twice. In this blissful shade, I watched the more experienced girls warm up in professional fashion. Each child so enveloped in joyful team spirit as they loudly shouted to ten , "1,2,3,4,5...!"These other girls, my competitors, who I believed were insane for loving such a sport, one I was forced into. It was military like to be speeding through two miles of treacherous ground. Yet, I was one of the older team members, so I made sure to force a fake grin onto my face in an effort to hide my pessimism. My endeavor failed, as I continued pacing back and forth hyperventilating in my desperate attempts to find security and assurance towards my survival.

 The race coordinators lined us up, as if we were going to face some sort of torture. I was there, staring up the wretched mound of earth that I had so feared, thinking about the hundreds of girls running, and listening to my coach ask me, "Why are you so pale? Relax it's just a race." Honestly, there was nothing to worry about. After all, it was a secondary sport. Yet, within my soul, I knew I craved for something more. Just then, the race organizer instructed us to get ready and once we were set the piercing sound of the gun made us go. Pah! Enough to scare the wits out of anyone, a sound that made 200 or so girls accelerate all at once to form the herd. The herd, the mass of humans racing up a vertical hill, all of us praying not to fall in fear of being trampled to death.

Up the hill we went, my little frame having to climb on all fours in order to reach the top. I had fallen behind, though once I reached the summit I started passing the deceptive sprinters. Oh, the vengeful pleasure that filled me once those incompetent runners ate my dust. It felt like a game of Pac Man: every time I passed someone I was renewed with energy. I looked up and counted nine runners ahead of me. I was aghast, because I had never been this close to first place before. For many, tenth place does not seem like an achievement but in a race of 200 plus runners I was considered a winner. Tenth place, like first place, also received a medal. I was living a dream as I achieved the impossible and my legs carried me further. Beads of salty sweat began to roll down my face as I sped through the course, my thoughts focused on the second ascent up the terrorizing mountain ahead of me. Focus was never something that came easily to me, but somehow that day my mind was locked into a new gear. My lungs filled with precious air and my heart pumped bloody fire throughout my pounding body. I became united with the earth and atmosphere as I embraced the very nature that was running. My previous hate for the sport had been forgotten. I grew addicted to the burning feeling that rushed through my veins, and it became a drug that propelled me further. The crowd cheered me and a blond girl on, the one who would later become my personal rival. Climbing the hill a second time was not nearly as bad; it was automatic. In the final stretch, I could hear one of the coaches yell, "You are in the top 10!" I sprinted—there was no way in this world that after running the race in this position I would let someone pass me. As the thought, "That medal is mine", raced through my head, I crossed the finish line.

I had never felt more exhausted and proud as the medal was placed around my neck. My legs wanted to give in to the ground, but I kept walking in search for my coach. They had given me water, but I was so tired I could not drink it. Every attempt ended with me spitting the sacred liquid onto the grass, so I decided to pour the rest onto myself. My overheated body felt relief as the cool water streamed down my back. I had made my way back into the tent, where I was greeted by a swarm of younger teammates. All of their eyes were filled with pure admiration for my accomplishment; I had become an inspiration. Their young hands grasped to see this newly won medal, so I removed it allowing them to try it on. I was new to this feeling of being the best at a sport since I was always the last pick in physical education. This joy of winning planted a seed in me that would grow into a passion for cross country and later track. My previous preference over soccer was erased, as running became a focal point in my life.

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