Running down a dream: State qualifier shares her inspiration for cross country

In the beginning it always starts the same. I stand upon a line painted upon the grass just the same as a hundred or more other girls. To either side of me is red with a tunnel of spectators in front of me, but all I concentrate on is the man holding the gun. It reminds me of a different time, when I first stood in this very same situation.

In front of me sits a cart with two teenagers driving, the bounty of people has disappeared to reveal 10 or so boys standing to my left, a girl stands far on the other end. Turning back I see my sister nodding me on. I turn back staring straight ahead at the green Gator, and I remember her words.

“All you have to do is catch the cart. If you do you win.”

I wrap my mind around that thought as a man says those three marvelous words: “Ready. Set. Go.” Then I shoot off that line as though a rocket was connected to my feet. As I surge forward, I heard gasps behind me from all the boys who had been trash talking just a minute before. I feel a laugh escape my lips as the cool autumn air blasts into my face.

Something came out in me that day that I doubt I’ll ever recreate. The way they carried me across the grass, my feet worked almost as if they were remembering something that I had forgotten.

I was only in fourth grade when that fateful day occurred and I found my passion for life. I still chase that lead cart as if I was still a nine year old just trying to show I could. The rush that the start gives me is a feeling that I love more than almost any other. Standing there just waiting for that gun to go off is one of the most nerve wracking things to go through, but when it finally does, my body goes into hyperdrive.

My mind falls blank as my body starts to work to keep my momentum going through multitudes of obstacles before the finishing shoot. I soak in the blare of the crowd as if it’s an energy drink to my veins. Adrenaline surges through me like life blood. My limbs work as one pulling me across the grass toward a target I have yet to reach. Faces pass and voices blare, but all I do is run.

Running, though, isn’t all about the places you go or the obstacles you hurdle. As a child I ran to prove my worth. To show that I could be something more than the weakling that everyone seemed to see me as. It was an escape from all the words that constantly hammered into my mind and pushed me to the ground, crushing me under relentless pressure.

When I finally escaped that horrid reality, running stuck with me. In seventh grade I was a new face in a new crowd with no one to relate, but when cross country started, I found myself surrounded by possible new friends as well as an environment that pushed me to my limits as a racer. I ran to forget the past, relieve the pressure of the present and stride into a future that I hoped would be bright.

Today, over six years later, I live a life surrounded by friends that support me, a school that pushes me to my highest potential and a new look upon my life that is filled with a beautiful future.

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