This I Believe

Alec - Redondo Beach, California
Entered on January 6, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: sports

As an athlete, specifically a cross country runner, I force myself to push through agony every day. Rather than resenting this self-induced torment, I believe in embracing the pain.

Everyone carries a desire for glorification, whether these achievements and renown come from acclaimed intellectual accomplishment, recognized artisanal excellence, classic megastardom…. I get mine from racing.

The rest of the team and I often jokingly agree that every good cross country runner is at least a little bit of a masochist. Whatever the time of year, you’ll find us running. I’ve run long, quick, steady state pace jogs under the often blisteringly hot Californian summer sun, still swifter tempo workouts on gray, snowy Colorado days, and of course, the early morning, ever fast, three-mile struggles to the finish on race day.

After particularly difficult, painful distance workouts or interval training sessions, the team is known to head to the athletic trainer’s office at school, where we shovel bucketfuls of ice into a metallic, oval-shaped basin––the dreaded ice bath. The tub is then filled to the brim with water, quickly cooling to a chilly fifty degrees. Throughout the physical education office, our shrieks of agony are heard and ignored as everyday occurences––“Oh, it’s just the cross country team….”––as we force our sore bodies into the icy water; our audible cries of agony soon die down, however, as the frigid water removes the feeling from our aching legs.

The pain, of course, is worst on race day. From the second the gun is fired at the starting line, each racer subjects their body to pain worse than ever before as we literally push our bodies to the limit so that we might have one of those gorgeous medals hung around our necks at passing the finish. Whether pushing up the impossibly steep hill aptly christened Agony on our home turf, the Peninsula Course, or striding up Reservoir Hill at the famed Mt. SAC Invitational, we welcome pain that becomes available to us only when we muster up the courage to push ourselves to the edge.

At the end of every season, our cute little cult of masochists gathers for one final cross country banquet. As the night begins to wind down and the graduating seniors give their final words to the team, every runner in the room realizes how close we’ve all come to each other; thinking of our pasta dinners and sleepovers, from the first day of summer practice to our final weekend at CIF State Finals, each member the group, by far the closest on campus, realizes that the season is over, and while there will be new freshmen for the next season, our seniors––Carrie, Marilyn, Stephanie, Michelle, Brian, Eleni, Breck, Mymy, Ghosh, Cole, Kuni, Spenco, and Namo––will be away at college. The realization of this fact could be the most painful sensation of the season. We took seventh in state, and our girls took third; we ran through the pain and we took our glory. I’m going to remember this year, 2007, as one of the best of my life. I cried writing this last paragraph. I love you, everyone.