A Passion To Run

Running is an individual sport; a runner may be a member of a team, but in the end, the result of the race depends solely on one person: you. Regardless of the speed or strength of your body, without mental stamina, your endurance, performance, and potential will always have limits.

I was a novice cross country runner entering my sophomore year, as it was my first season participating in the sport. I had been blessed with success throughout the entire season and finally the end was nearing. This meant the last meet before State Championships was approaching: North Coast Section. This race would determine which teams and individuals would qualify to compete in the State meet. Coming into the race, I had little idea as to where I would place; I only knew one thing, it was vital that I finish in the top ten in order to move on.

As the race began, I employed my typical race routine and burst ahead to the front of the pack. As I settled into a manageable pace, I realized something significant: I was in front, which meant I had a chance not only to finish top ten, but to win the entire race. Eventually, I whisked by the two mile mark, having yet to be passed by a single runner. All I had to do was stay in the lead for less than a mile more and I would be crowned with the title of North Coast Section Champion. I used a downhill section to quicken my pace, hoping to gain an even greater distance between myself and the individual in second place. However, as I reached the bottom of the hill, I detected faint shouting in the distance. I turned my body and suddenly felt numb as I watched the runner in second place pass the top of the hill and disappear, turning left instead of right. I had taken a wrong turn and had now lost my first place position that I had worked so hard to maintain.

With that realization, I desired nothing more than to collapse on the ground in tears of agony. But I knew that would merely make things worse. My body felt completely drained of energy, but I thought back to my original goal of placing top ten and scrambled back up the hill before I fell even farther behind, knowing that I would never have given up my position willingly and that I had just as much mental strength, if not more, than the girl who had taken my spot.

As I raced up the final hill and noticed my competitor beginning to lose speed, I pushed myself harder than ever before; despite my burning muscles, racing heart, and labored breathing, I utilized what energy I had left to pump my arms vigorously and push forward with my weary legs. And as I crossed the finish line I knew that I had not only outrun all my competitors, but I had won the race because of my confidence in myself, mental toughness, and the knowledge that I had the ability to win. Because in a sport where the only person you can rely on is yourself, mental strength may be the only factor that keeps you running.