In the average high school cross country race the course is 3.1 miles long. While each footstep of those 3.1 miles is riddled with masochistic pain, they also give opportunities for greatness. These race courses are the place where strength is broken, revived, or born. The unrelenting pains that racers feel during the race are always worth enduring to reach the finish. That is why I believe in forward motion.
Forward motion is the basic idea of progression, a continuation from start to finish. Races are composed mostly of unbridled intensity and pain, but also some enjoyment. I run for my own pride, and that seems to overpower the fire that blaze in the soles of my spikes and travel all the way up to my shoulders.
Of all the emotions that a racer feels, uncertainty may be the most destructive. Flowing freely through my mind prior to my races is self doubt. Yet despite my lack of natural running talent I know that I must finish. It is one thing to be passed in a race, because there is always the opportunity to catch that person later in the race. But it is quite another to be bypassed, and you can only be bypassed if you drop out of the race. A bypass is to not finish, and to not finish is to quit.
The race courses are lonely places. Even in the most open courses, where I am surrounded by cheering families, yelling coaches, team mates, and the competition, I am alone. I reach the place where in the far corners of my mind where self doubt begs me to challenge it. It is rare that I can ever remember or even distinguish one race from another, but there is one that stands out prominently in my mind. It was the Wildcat Invitational. It was also the day that I thought I was going to die, actually not only die, but die alone and in last place. Enclosed by woods and hills, the course also happened to be extremely muddy. On any normal day it would have looked like any wooded path outside of a high school, but not today. Today it resembled a barren and bloodied battlefield on which we, the soldiers, were about to fight a war of mental and physical capacity. Neither the course nor the conditions were ideal, but the race was on.
Usually at an invitational I am surrounded by other racers because so many teams are racing, but in this particular race I found myself unmistakable alone. And I began to panic. My head throbbed with thoughts of last place, my shoulders slumped downward, my lungs constricting, and the tortuous pains in my legs. But somehow through the chaos I remembered to count my footsteps aloud as I ran. And before long I found myself approaching the finishing half mile of the race and all I could think about was: if I can only reach that white line I can stop. But as I crossed the finish line I knew I was wrong. I would never stop, I could never stop. I was stuck in the pull of forward motion, and I never wanted to separate myself from it.
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