This I Believe

Hannah - Wilmette, Illinois
Entered on February 4, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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This I Believe

“Who you rootin’ for? C-J-H-S tigers!” Our anxious shrieks were muffled by the sharp wind. After some encouragement from our coach, the group that formed the CJHS cross country team dispersed momentarily. Each runner found her own place on the starting line and prepared herself for the final meet of the season. We had been forced to strip off our extra layers a few minutes prior. This left us with only the flimsy, thin fabric of our uniforms to protect us from the 28 degree air. We decided to sprint a few more strides and then resorted to jumping jacks, in an effort to keep warm. Just seconds before the gun was shot, we joked as always that we did not want to be there. We sighed and reiterated our hate for running. The gun was shot and we sprinted off into the cold. As I found my place towards the end of the pack, I asked myself more seriously why I bothered to do this. Looking back, I suppose it is because I believe in running.

After about a minute, I had eased into a steady pace. Along with this adjustment came a wave of irritation. Although I had been running almost every day for three months now, running still felt like a chore. I allowed myself to focus on every discomfort I was feeling. Every time my shoes slapped the ground, sharp pain arose in my ankles and a dull ache formed in my calves. Abruptly, I stopped thinking pessimistic thoughts. I could blame my physical pain endlessly, but this was not the true force which made running so difficult. The real devil that had been urging me to give up and stop running was myself.

Knowing this, I directed all my concentration elsewhere. My eyes narrowed in on the back of the girl in front of me, blocking everything else from my vision. All the loud commotion surrounding me disappeared and I was left with only the strong panting of my breathing. I studied every beat that made up the steady inhale and exhale of air. Soon I noticed that I had caught up with the girl in front of me. After running along side her for a few paces, I swiftly pulled past her. I escaped back into a place of stillness within my mind and slowly picked up speed.

The second and final mile was coming to an end, as I saw the final stretch of grass ahead. I focused solely on the person in front of me and quickened my pace. There was a fairly large gap between us, and for a moment I doubted that I obtained the energy needed. By this point, the cold had left my legs with little feeling. This numbness gave me the sensation that I was hovering just above the ground. I found the energy within me and soared past the other runner, beating her by just a few seconds.

On the day of that final meet, running enabled me to discover and possess the important quality that is confidence. Every day, I struggle to acquire and then maintain this characteristic. Through running, self-assurance was gained by reaching a place of comfort and peace within me. As my quest for confidence continues, I am left with my belief in running to guide me.