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On the line
I pace up to the line.
I take a few deep breaths. My heart is pounding in my ears.
I take a step back and hop up and down, up and down,
Keep my legs moving, get ready for the gun.
I can shake the cold and stiffness, but not the butterflies.
I step back up to the line.
To my left and right, I see my teammates looking out at the course.
You can tell, by the distant look in their eyes,
In their mind they aren’t at a starting line
But where their legs will carry them in a few moments.
I close my eyes, and think back to yesterday,
When practice was fun and easy and light.
I think back to a week ago,
After running so hard my lungs seemed to scream,
After clawing up a hill so fast,
My legs met every stride in a forced effort.
I think back to summer, all those days,
Those days spent training instead of at the beach
Or with my friends.
Then I realize how far I’ve come
What it took to get here, on the starting line.
How much stronger I am, how much I’ve prepared.
But the race won’t seem easy.
It never does.
And it never should.
I open my eyes and feel a little better.
A bit of extra confidence has a way of doing that, sometimes.
My eyes comb the crowd of spectators until I find my parents.
They seem as nervous as I am.
I inhale deeply through my nose.
Exhale slowly through my mouth.
Breathing seems easier when it becomes that simple.
A man at the line starts to yell instructions to us.
I don’t listen.
Once the gun in his hand goes off, I’ll be racing.
The rest doesn’t matter anymore.
A slight, crisp breeze caresses my face
As the gun points towards the sky.
My fingers twitch at my side in anticipation.
My stomach lurches
My breath catches in my throat.
I lean forward,
Right foot in front,
Left in back.
I can do this.
On your mark…