Running with Determination
I look down the straight lanes of the track as my teammate rounds the corner for her home stretch. My eyes focus in on the silver baton in her hands, that in just moments, will be placed in mine. I look down at the number pinned onto my jersey. Above the numbers are the words, “state participant.” I had made it. I start to run and place my hand behind me where I feel the cool metal slap against my palm. The baton was in place and I take off.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word determined as, “Showing the strong desire to follow a particular plan of action even if it is difficult.” Setting a goal and being determined to reach it is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things I’ve done. Determination is one of the most important traits a person can have, because it shows the hard work and obstacles someone is willing to endure to reach their goal.
My mom started coaching girls track when I was eight years old. At that age I went with my mom to every practice and meet. I watched the older girls work unbelievably hard and set goals for themselves. I witnessed girls make it to state, and saw how proud and excited they were. I knew when I got older I wanted to be like them.
Since my first year in varsity track and field, I’ve set goals for myself. I’ve always strived to get faster and stronger as each new season approaches. I've learned throughout my life that anyone can run. Although, not everyone can run fast. I’ve realized that determination goes hand in hand with running. I've had to set goals and let nothing stop me, no matter how hard the challenge. Every year, since running on the varsity team, I’ve set the goal of participating in the state track and field meet, and earning a medal there.
I start off my race fast. The first 100 meters fly by as I stride out hard. My adrenalin pushing me forward like an engine on a car. By the 200 meter mark, I set into a more maintainable pace. By that point, my breath begins to shorten. My lungs start to feel like they are on fire as I try to suck in air. My lungs beg me to stop. I remind myself that the faster I run the faster I’ll be done. I think back to my goal and the hard work I had put in to get to the state meet.
When I set the goal of making it to state, I didn’t wait around until the first day of practice to start my journey. I prepared months beforehand. Right after the tennis season ended, I laced up my running shoes and got to work. I tried to run 6 days a week, while doing other workouts, to get myself in the best shape possible. The Minnesota winters are cold and harsh, forcing me to run inside on a treadmill, which got boring quickly. Most cold winter days, I wanted to bundle up by the fire and take a nap, when I got home from school. Nevertheless, I didn’t become hesitant or lazy about my goal, and give into those temptations. Instead, I put in my earbuds, stretched and prepared for my run.
I finish the first lap and a half of the second. My lungs are still on fire, but now I face a new problem. My legs start to burn as they fill with lactic acid. They grow heavier each time my shoes hit the track. I keep telling myself to not think about the pain, but to think of my teammates counting on me at the finish line. My legs beg me to quit, but my mind drifts back to my desire to fulfill my goal. I think of the long runs I endured, throughout the season, and carry on through my pain.
The track season started out with bang. I went on lengthy runs, and pushed myself through grueling speed workouts. Some runs were plain miserable. I’ve run speed workouts that consisted of hard sprints over and over again, in wind so fierce I thought it would knock me right over. I’ve run long runs in the pouring rain where every inch of my body became soaking wet. The only thing that pulled me through, was my determination to make it to state with my 4 by 800 meter relay team. I’d remind myself that all the challenging practices were bringing me a step closer.
I get to the 200 meter mark of my second and final lap. My arms and shoulders feel heavy and stiff. It feels like they could fall off my body, at any given moment. I push with all my might to keep pumping my arms, to help drive myself forward. I remind myself of all the people watching in the stands counting on me. My arms and shoulders beg me to stop. Instead, I distract my mind by reflecting back to all the meets I’ve had prior, that prepared me for this race and pump my arms harder.
Two weeks into the season, the track meets began. I not only ran the 800 meter, but the 400 meter as well. Each competition, I pushed myself as hard as I could, to shave seconds off my overall time. I used the meets to improve, and prepare myself for sections, which is the track meet in which I could qualify for state. Before every race, I’d get anxious. I’d remind myself the nerves were good, because they showed I cared. Butterflies would fill my stomach as I stretched and warmed up. The anxiety I felt, was enough for me to call it quits, but my dedication to reach my goal got me through every tough meet.
I reached the last 100 meters of my race. I know I have to give it all I have and leave absolutely nothing on the track. I remind myself I’m not only running for me, but the other girls on the relay as well. I can’t let them down. I start to stride out hard. I pick up my pace, daring myself to get to full speed. My lungs feel as though they’re failing, as I gasp for air. My legs are cement blocks, and it takes all my strength to move them. My arms feel like they have bricks tied to them with a rope, but I still pump them as hard as I can. I now have 50 meters left. I start to go faster and faster. My whole body screaming at me to stop. I instead keep building up momentum, as I sprint down the straightaway. Then bam! I slap the baton into my teammates palm, and watch her take off. I move off the track quickly so I don’t get trampled. Once I get to the infield, I drop onto all fours trying to regain my breath. Through all my pain I couldn’t help but smile, because I finished the race.
I step onto the podium with my teammates, as the name Park Rapids is called over the loudspeaker. I look out into the crowd of people cheering. I can’t contain my excitement as they place the state medal around my neck. I look to the three other girls on the relay team and see their facial expressions reflect the same emotions as mine. With determination, I accomplished my goals of running at the state meet, and earning a medal. I did it.
I always understood the definition of determination, but after my state experience the word had a new meaning to me. It meant working hard no matter how badly I wanted to quite. It meant pushing my body to the points of excruciating pain, or points I never imagined it could reach. It meant sweat and quite a few tears. Most importantly it meant reaching a goal that was once only my dream. I’m looking forward to my future goals, whether they be in sports or another part of my life. I now know, because of my state experience, I can conquer any obstacle or reach any goal, if I believe in myself and channel the same determination, I had that track season.