Born to Run: Learning Not to Give Up in a Race

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With shaky knees, I hesitantly made my way across the field. The moment of truth was on me. With the back of my hand, I brushed away the remaining salty tears from my face. The official times of the girls who qualified for state were right across from me. My eyes scanned the paper in search for my name. There, I was! I was going to State! A giant grin split my face, but a nervous pit formed in my stomach as I thought about how tough it was going to be. It would be my biggest competition yet. The fear of failure but the thrill of success made me both love and hate track. I adore the smell of rubber turf and the familiar feeling of my spikes penetrating the ground. The warm golden sun on my skin and the sound of children energizes me. However, I despised the competition; feeling my heart jumping out of my chest. The anticipation of the words, “ready”, “set”, the sound of the gun always made me jump out of my skin. My mother introduced me to the sport when I was just seven years old. She claimed that I needed to get off the couch and put my energy into something active. Ever since, track represented me, it became a part of me.

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I distinctly remember the day of the Sunflower State Games, a huge event held in Topeka, Kansas. I was representing my team, Olathe Express. It was the first competition of the day, and sweat was beading on my forehead. Unable to sit down, I paced back and forth, stomping my feet impatiently. Soon, it became harder and harder to watch the competition. I raced down the open field into the women’s restroom; I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the nearest stall and locked myself in it. My back slid down the stall door, and I shriveled into a tight ball. Once the first tear broke free, the next followed in an unbroken stream. As more tears came, more thoughts whirled in my head. My event was coming soon. Before my thoughts could process, I heard the phrase I’ve been waiting for all day, “Girls 200 Meter Dash.” The fear of failure consumed me.

Suddenly a familiar voice filled my ears. It was my very irritated mother, yelling at me to hurry up. “Your race is starting”, was the only thing I heard between my sobs. I knew she was disappointed in me, a feeling I knew all too well. Unable to answer her questions, my mom furiously walks out. In return someone else comes in, this time it was my coach. Not wanting her to hear my cry, I stayed silent. She began talking about how she has gone through many experiences such as mine. She told me that if I give up even before the race begins, I’ll never know what is at the end of the line. She explained that soldiers didn’t win a war without fighting a battle, “Are you a soldier?” she asked. Her question made me pause and think. I did not want this moment of cowardice to define me. I slowly emerged from the bathroom stall and walked towards the field with my coach following behind. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My eyes opened and suddenly, the track became a battlefield. I was a soldier with only one thing on my mind. I had to cross that finish line. The next thing I knew, my knee hit the ground and I positioned myself on the starting block. I hear the crowd yelling names and talking. “Runners, to your mark!” My sweaty hands spread like pale starfishes on the ground. “Set!” The gunshot fired and I was off. I heard no noise; I saw no competitors; I saw no crowd as I ran. Not thinking about my expectations or my families, I reminded myself why I loved running track in the first place.

When I was sitting in that stall, I haven’t fully understood my coach’s words until now. With this new established understanding, I know now more than ever that I cannot give up before I start. Sometimes competition is a good thing; it pushes people and helps them grow into their potential. I can’t let the fear of competition stop me from moving forward. If I do, I will never know what I could achieve. I must give my best, even if someone else does it better. It doesn’t mean that I have failed, but only that I must work a little harder or practice a little more. Victory is measured by personal achievement ; personal improvement. That day, I came in third place. It felt more like first. I was ecstatic because I won against my fear, and I had triumphed over my negative thoughts. Most significantly, I learned that running is not always about beating the person in front of you; it is about conquering the person within you. The track is not just a four hundred meter circle to me, it is the place that prompted my growth from an insecure young girl to a strong and confident young woman. Whether it is tackling a tough college course or giving a business presentation in front of the CEO, I will never let fear stop me.

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