My heart is pounding, and I start to breath faster. I close my eyes and bend over, pressing my upper body against my extended leg. One, two, three, four ... On ten I open my eyes and look at my teammates who stretch quietly among striding runners and shouting spectators. I smile and tell them, "We're going to win, you guys. I can feel it. God told me." They smile and nod, and I almost laugh thinking how silly I must sound. But I can feel it. Somehow I just know.
f f f
I can never forget our 4 x 800 meter relay team at the Class L State Championship sophomore year. That team reminds me of everything I love about running. We had the strength, both mental and physical from months of training. We had friendship, a bond that kept us together, and we had the desire to win.
It was running that first taught me the thrill of accomplishment. School work was often more a chore than a challenge, so I developed my instinctive confidence on the track rather than in a classroom. Whether it was finishing my first cross-country course or winning a race for the first time, I delighted in victory and reveled in the rush of excitement after a hard-fought race.
To win, a runner must be strong. It is not only necessary to possess physical strength. The mentality of a race is no easier to cope with than the physical demand. Being prepared mentally is the most important thing before stepping up to the starting line. Without the mind, the body is useless. As the four of us approached the starting area at the State Championships, we were ready to win the race.
I look back on that relay team and wonder if it was the relay that made us friends, or the friendship that made the relay what it was. One of my best friends was on that team. Running brought us together and she is still my favorite person to run with. After every race we wait for each other, either for a supporting arm or a hug of congratulations.
I look around in an attempt to locate everyone. I find Amy and put our arms on each others' shoulders as we make our way across the track. The four of us meet in a corner just out of the way of the competitors in the next race. We smile at each other as we wait for everyone to catch her breath. After we recover enough to talk, I laugh out loud and say. "I told you we were going to win, didn't I?" Then we laugh together. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.