Eight-hundred meters left, that is it, only eight hundred meters left. I felt my chest get tight and my side get sore as I plodded along the grassy pathway at my first high school cross country meet. My stride was short, and my speed was no better than that of a shuffle jogger. I remember thinking that the three point one mile course would never end. I saw the long legged older girls running so much faster than me, and looking like they might as well fly. Six hundred meters to go, my legs feel like lead as I keep on going. Just finish Maggie, just finish, you’ve done this in practice, you can finish a 5K.
As I keep moving, I think about how far I improved since my very first day to summer practice. It was hot and I was a little puggy. I was only there because my mother made me choose between running and swimming, I did swimming the year before and I knew that THAT was NOT the sport for me.
So there I was, in my much-neglected sneakers, about to run in a race, for the first time ever. I was nervous, and scared. The first practice brought me home to tears because it was a four-mile run up a what seemed like a never ending hill. Even after that, Mom said to go back the next day. So that’s what I did, and that day was even worse because they were sprint relays up yet another hill. Yet again, I came home crying and discouraged because I was sore and slow, but mom said to go back the next day. Soon after, I didn’t need my mom to tell me to go to practice again. For some insane reason, I started to like going to cross country on my own. I made friends, and I started to feel better and get just a little bit faster, which would bring me home beaming as I tell my mom, “I didn’t even walk today!” After that, skipping practice wasn’t an option, I loved having something to focus on, to get my anger out on, to keep on challenging myself to improve and get just a little faster.
Two-hundred meters left and I see the finish line. I get this adrenaline rush and my legs change from their plod, to a sprint. I hear the crowd cheering other runners on and drive my knees up like Coach Carter keeps on drilling the team to do in practice. The pain is replaced by determination and the heaviness in my feet is turned into a speed that I could never accomplish with ease. One-hundred meters left, I’m flying and I’m focused on only one thing, the finish. I kick it as much as I can until I finally cross the line. I did it, all of my work paid off at the end of the race.
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