A thundering percussion beat upon my bedroom door. Why would someone wake me at this black, ungodly hour? I creaked open my door to find my sister: a jumpy girl with puffy eyes, perfectly braided hair, and slightly excessive beauty glitter. Evelyn had clearly been awake for quite some time. “Jeff! First day of practice! Get excited!” I stood there, eyelids clenching, jaw dropped, cradling my cold chest, struggling to keep one eye open, in a sleep-deprived stupor. “Come on, it’s 5:20. Get ready to run, buddy!” I wished she was wrong, but she knew best. It was August 12th, 2004, my first day of cross country practice.
As my sister, Evelyn, roared our Suburban through the dense early morning fog, I found my stomach and I were more concerned with practice than Evelyn’s questionable driving. Over the summer, she quieted my inhibitions as she dragged me out of bed to run at the ripe hour of six thirty. She pushed me to be an integral part of the high school varsity team. It was time to show her what I could do.
That first Monday morning, we started the season with a typical but inspiring workout, “The Sun Run”. We started through town, past Heyn’s Ice Cream, down the dim deserted sidewalks, canopied by dripping maples and oaks. After breathing in the thick, Iowa humidity for a mile and a half, we turned towards the sun. Our strides extended and the pace quickened. As our pack of fifteen ran through the neighborhoods, I knew that I wasn’t the only one who felt deep pains. My mind went on autopilot to overlook the fatigue pumping through my legs, and stick up with the older runners. As our school came into view, we sprinted across the street. I put my hands above my heated head as the sweat pooled on the ground below me. With heavy breaths, the boys and girls team arrived back as Coach called everyone into a huddle. After a few words of wisdom, we all yelled “TOGETHER!” It had been a good run.
On Sept 16th 2004, we ran at Knoll Ridge Park. I ran my race in a light rain that left the course in a dark misty haze. My legs weren’t working. I couldn’t stop thinking about my weaknesses. I finished my race extremely disappointed. Evelyn jogged up to me immediately after my race and put her hand on my shoulder. ”What happened?” I told her I ran too slow. She didn’t buy it. “Jeff, you might be a freshman but you are extremely important to the team. You ran far slower than what you could have, and you can’t settle for that.” Although Evelyn was playing the role of concerned big sister, I knew she hunted me down with greater purpose. Our team viewed the sport from a wider view than the success of individuals. The whole team scores in a meet, the whole team pushes each other in practices, and the whole team makes a difference. My team did everything together, from tailgating football games to supporting our coach through his struggle with cancer; we relied on each other for strength.
The next few seasons I found my place on the team, running like Evelyn told me I could, overcoming every boundary. I followed in Evelyn’s footsteps, becoming the captain, raising the spirit and confidence of every teammate. I tried to push out every negative thought from my mind and others alike. I know that the success of team was not in physical ability, but our drive to push each other to our peak. And we did succeed. Evelyn, along with my teammates, taught me how to fight for anything and come out on top. I believe in the ability of group willpower. I believe in the ability to overcome anything by sheer desire with the help of others close to me.
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