The day's track workout is posted on the bulletin board in the locker room. As I read the schedule, my heart drops. Today's practice consists of a 1200, 800 and 400 with a mile warm-up and cool-down. The butterflies in my stomach begin to flutter as I start to doubt whether I'm in good enough shape to complete this. I am my own worst enemy. Slowly, I get dressed. As I tie my running shoes, I fight the urge to hide somewhere, anywhere.
I trudge out to the track, dragging my feet every step of the way. After two warm-up laps, I stretch. I grimace as my muscles protest, still complaining about yesterday's run. This will not be fun. The warm-up mile seems to last for an eternity. The time only serves to instill more fear in me. It is at this point I feel most out of shape and the least competent.
It is a Saturday afternoon. Why am I here? Until half an hour ago, I was curled up in a cozy armchair lost in a book. As I reminisce about these comforts, I turn a corner and an icy blast of wind greets me. The wind cuts through my unlined pants and cotton t-shirt. The cold slices through my skin and settles deep within my bones. I forgot my gloves so my hands are so stiff with the cold that it hurts to bend them. Eventually, the mile ends and I must face my doom on the track.
Now is the difficult part. I have only myself to blame for any failures. This is a race between the clock and me. I am determined to win, but am I good enough? Will time emerge the victor? Unlike a race where I have an opponent, in a workout there is no such motivation. I must find the drive within me. Will it be there?
The clock starts and I begin to run the 1200. All I feel is pain. My rhythm is off. My arms aren't working right. My arms and legs are not in sync; they're battling against each other. Steady. Try to settle into a pace. Only two of us are running. We each have a different time to achieve. I watch as my teammate sprints away, leaving me to huff and puff by myself.
Around the track I go. The wind works against me as I encounter the straightaway. Only two laps to go. I've finally found my pace, but my body is still working against itself. I look at my coach for support as I run by. He yells at me to slow down. As I run, the sprinters performing their active stretching cheer me on. Their encouragement lifts my spirits and I can feel my body respond. The running is getting easier and my pace quickens. Before I can comprehend what is happening, I have one lap left.
The last lap feels the best. I am flying, defying the wind. My feet float off the ground. I go around the track faster than I ever thought possible. My body is working just as I want it to. I sprint down the last straightaway. I refuse to give in to the pain that is searing up and down my legs or the cold that paralyzes my lungs. With a last effort, I heave my body across the finish line. My mouth is too tired from gasping for air to form words. All the pain was worth it. I came in thirty seconds under my desired time; I beat the clock. Barely able to stand upright, I begin jogging. I have only a brief respite before I begin the 800. Only this time, I know I can do it. For the moment, I have regained my self-confidence. l
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.