by Katie Hyland
Narrative of a high school girl, competing in cross country.
English 11AP (3)
1 January 2019
Three Miles Away
"First call! All Girls Varsity runners to the start line. Race will begin in 15 minutes" announces the meet broadcaster. Fifteen minutes. Breathe. I savor my last sips of water while contemplating if I prepared well enough for the race. I don't feel prepared. I am convinced part of me will always feel I'm not ready.
"Girls I'm coming around with your microchips, bibs, and pins. Make sure uniforms are on, spikes are ready, and we can head down to the start" recites my coach. I look around at the seven girls sitting in a circle. The varsity seven. Each sits with a scorn look of concentration on her face. I focus on ground making sure my race flats are tied tight, and my legs muscles feel loose. We stand up together and make our way down to the starting blocks. I can feel each butterfly in my stomach break out of its cocoon. My heart beat pounds in the back of my head. It pulses rapidly like the flutter of each butterfly wing. Keep it together.
We jog in silence until we reach our block number. Number 43. The last on the line. This doesn't look promising. Forty two teams of girls' position themselves before us. I recognize the sense of fear that runs through my nerves.
"Following a three command start, the race will begin in sixty seconds" calls the starter. "Alright girls this is it. You've got three miles to show the world what your made of" our coach replies.
Three miles. Let's see what I can do.
"On your marks. Get set" SNAP. The gun fires and the air shatters; my final thoughts left unattended in silence. No matter how many races I enter, my body never grows accustomed to the earsplitting sound of the start. Each time my hearts skips a beat.
My legs respond quicker than my mind. The race starts fast. Almost too fast. I look ahead and run straight for the front packs. I pass girls in all directions. I feel strong surrounded by intimidation.
Miles one pass quickly. I feel fast making my way up to the top. My eyes scan the clock searching for the right time. I'm under pace. It's time to pick up speed. My mentality remains high.
Mile two costs the most. It is as much of a psychological burden as it is physical. I know I must fight to keep up. I trail the girls ahead of me. I let them pull me through the race. My legs begin to burn. I can feel the blood pumping throughout my veins. I let in as much oxygen as I can while keeping my breathing under control. Almost there.
Mile three is the time to make a move. I see the pain in girls around me. I let their weakness hold together my strength. My stamina helps me pass as many girls as I can. I lengthen my stride to cover as much ground as possible. The faster you run the faster you're done.
The finish line awaits. The last two hundred meters feel endless. My legs shake as I push them harder. Each step is heavier than the last. I close my eyes and race straight ahead pushing my body forward. I let my arms go and guide my hips. Staring at the clock I cross the line.
It's over. I walk off the finishing stretch and collapse on the ground. I know I must stand up and keep walking but my body is too exhausted. Each drop of energy drained from the inside out. My heart beat echoes from head to toe. Emotions flood my presence. I feel caught between a world of relief, pain, and joy. Part of me wants to cry in shock. I collect myself and find my teammates. I embrace them as I start to tremble and my voice begins to quake. We train together. We fight together. We race together. I value their successes and failures as if they were my own. We made it.
My parents and coaches congratulate me while overflowing with pride. I thank them while knowing my time could have been better. While I know fear held me back, each race represents a milestone. It's a step towards improvement. Races are what keep me training at the highest intensity.
Cross country categorizes each runner under a number. It is a single number that represents your worth, and that is my time. Racing has taught me to think of the life as the race itself. The first mile is the learning curve. You get the hang of it just in time to reach the hard part. The second mile will bring you more pain than joy, but inside you have to believe each hill is worth the torment. It's the third mile that will test your limits. It is the mile that determines your time. Your number. The course of the third mile can change in a second. But in the end, the race will end when you cross the finish line. Many times it feels almost like the end came too soon.
I pretend each race is like an ominous cloud that can't seem to pass. There isn't always a way around it, just like each hurdles life throws at you. Eventually you must go through them to come out the other side. And you will. I believe I will. I just have to keep running.