I believe in the power of human endurance, the will to push on even in the most trying of moments.
To me, running is less of a sport and more of a religion. A series of pre-designed tests, calculated precisely for either the District or State meet, a mere 20 minutes of my life. Hours upon hours, and miles upon miles lead up to this one single moment in time.
Each day, I find myself among teammates, those who suffer beside me for three sometimes agonizing months full of shin splints and sweltering days. Feeling sore every morning when you get out of bed. And so in a painful sort of pleasure, we are united in an unfailing brotherhood.
They say that the true character of a runner is tested in the midst of a race, in the section known as no-man’s land where the cheers of the crowds fade and the mind wanders. The first time I experienced this was in my first meet at Camel’s Back Park. The day was oppressively hot and already one of the girls on the Borah team had collapsed from heat exhaustion. As a freshman, I felt seriously under-trained and miserably nervous.
The junior-varsity race started, and before the crack of the pistol had even faded my teammates and I were halfway across the field. Another saying is, birds of a feather flock together. I know why. In the midst of those wearing the green singlets and painfully small shorts, you definitely find some security in knowing that you aren’t the only one with blaringly white legs.
As the race progressed, I discovered the horrible feeling that my legs were beginning to be very painful. I also noticed that many of my comrades-in-green were starting to pull ahead leaving me behind literally eating their dust. Panic shot through my body as I realized that I had perhaps pushed myself too hard in the beginning. Of course, I was in the most trying part of the race, where no one is watching and the temptation to stop is unbearably present.
As if a gift from heaven, I spotted another freshman runner from my team steadily pushing on. By some desire of will I still don’t understand, I “attached myself to his hip.” I lost myself in the measured rhythm of our soles pounding in syncopation on the hard dirt and enjoyed the pleasure of ignoring the pain and maintaining a steady pace. After what felt like an eternity, I discovered that the cheers of the crowd could again be heard and that together we had passed a lot of people.
As we rounded the final bend and headed into the last one-hundred meters of the flag-lined chute, I chose to pass my personal savior and come in seventh, right ahead of him and much to his disdain.
I believe in the power of friendship, and of the team. The power in a friend who, in the best and worst of times, picks you up and carries you home. I believe in endurance…
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.