This Race Matters

This race matters.

   I shuffle my feet trying to distract myself from my thoughts. I feel myself moving towards the track and realize that I am responding to the race official’s instructions. Lane four, I remember. I count one, two, three, four, as I stare beneath me at the red rubber surface of the track.

   This race matters.

   I half-heartedly listen to the distorted voice of the race official through his megaphone. I bounce up and down and stretch my legs in my standing position, whether it was to loosen up or to shake out the nerves. Now, I’m fidgeting, waiting for the familiar calls through the megaphone.

   “Runners on your marks.”

   This race matters.

   “Set.”

   My heart is thumping to the rhythm of my breath. This race will be over in 50 seconds. 8 hurdles and I’m done. My heart continues to thump.

   Bang

   The thumping stops. I lengthen my stride with every second after the gun goes off. I reach the first hurdle, lunging myself forward and over it. That wasn’t right. I landed uneasily. My strides continue to get longer as I reach the second hurdle, trying to regain their flow.

   This race matters.

   I look to my right and see two girls just ahead of me. There are eight if us in this race. I have to finish in the top six to move on to North Coast Sectionals.  I think of this. I’m running fast. I’m running too fast. My legs are screaming at me. I try to ignore them.

   This race matters.

   Now, I cannot tell if I am slowing down or the other girls are speeding up. I think of my coaches’ words, “Trust your training.” Ignore your body’s cry for relief. Trust your training. All eight of us are all within a 2 second proximity of each other. I count the number of girls who I can tell are in front of me. I count 4. I am in fifth place.

   This race matters.

   I see three more hurdles between the finish line and myself. I am in sixth place. Now there are two hurdles before me. I hear my Coaches’ eager shouts. I pump my legs. I am sprinting as fast as I can, reaching the very last hurdle. I jump. I land. I sprint for three more seconds, until I am passed the finish line. I am now on the ground. The uneven red rubber surface digs into my knees. My chest is pulsing up and down. My head is spinning. I finished seventh.

There’s always next race.