I had never run competitively in anything more than a quick foot race before I started high school. I was a decent athlete, but I never tried distance running until my mother suggested that I join the cross country team. She wanted me to get involved in extra-curricular activities and she heard good things about this team. Someone I knew was going to join also so I thought I would give it a try.
I showed up on the first day, nervous, in my new shorts, shirt, and running shoes. Most of the kids looked older, but I found a few kids I knew from jr. high and hung around them. The coach introduced himself and talked a little bit about the sport.
Next thing I know, we are running a mile warm up. A mile for warm up? As far as I was concerned, a mile was a long way to run. I was in good shape, so I was able to do it and finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, but it wasn't easy. After that, we stretched and then did our workout which consisted of running various distances at various speeds. Overall I thought it was ok, but not something I wanted to do on a daily basis.
In the days to follow, my mom really had to push to get me to stick with it. I was sore and didn't want to keep running, but for whatever reason, I stuck with it. After a few weeks it got easier. I started meeting new people and it actually became fun. I kept training with the team each day and got better each week.
By the end of the season, I was one of the top runners on the freshman team. The problem was, I had become injured. I could run, but it was painful, and I really needed time to heal. This was unfortunate because the conference race was upon us and it was the most important race of the season. All the teams would be there.
I told my coach I was injured, but he really wanted me to run because it would help the team. I thought to my self, I could run, but it might make the injury worse. Then I thought, well, it was the last race so even if I was injured more, I would have plenty of time to heal after the season was over.
So, after weighing the options, I decided to run. On race day I prepared myself mentally as best I could. When the gun went off, I sprinted out fast, but at the same time, tried to be relaxed and conserve energy. It was a 2 mile run. Throughout the race I kept advancing and passing people slowly, one by one. Up until this point in the season, I was getting good, but I was not the best on my team, or the conference for that matter.
As we got to the last 400 meters, in the open field, I realized that I was at the front with just 2 other people. I couldn't believe it. Even with the injury, this was my best race yet. Now I was not the best sprinter, so I knew if I was neck and neck at the end, I might get passed. So at that moment, with about 300 meters left, I just took off.
I pulled into first and didn't look back. I went all out and just focused on the finish line. It was a blur, but the next thing I knew I was across the finish line and there was no one in front of me. I heard other runners pile in behind me huffing and puffing.
I was in shock. I had just won the freshman conference race! I was actually a bit frightened because this was the first time anything like this had happened to me and I didn't know what to expect. Then my teammates and the spectators started crowding me and congratulating me. I was exhausted, but relieved and happy at the same time. It was one of my greatest accomplishments growing up.
I still look back in disbelief on how I started out having never done any kind of distance running and ended up the season winning the freshman conference race. It shows if you are focused and work hard you can achieve goals that may seem impossible at first, but are in fact attainable.