I joined the cross country team late again this year. My doctor didn't clear me until three quarters of the season were already over. I think he forgot.
Cross Country is an excruciating sport. I'm good at sprinting, I used to be a soccer defender. I joined cross country last year because I wanted to be able to cross it off my bucket list, and be able to tell everyone that "the sprinter," me, could actually run a 5k, 3.1 miles, without any trouble.
Yesterday, my school ran the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Division III race at the Westover School in Middlebury, CT.
The bus ride took about an hour and a half, and the ride to the race was full of quiet concentration, as everyone was preparing for what was supposed to be the record breaking meet of their lives.
We got to the school, set up camp, bought some t shirts, and went on the course walk-through. We soon realized that this race would, in fact, not be the race of our lives. If anything, it was going to be the most challenging race we would ever encounter.
Last week Winter Storm Athena hit, and traces of snow were still on the ground. When snow melts on grass, mud is the answer, and that's what the course was. Almost 3.1 miles of muddy muck, and snow where the mud wasn't present. There were some dry spots too, but those were all uphill. The order of the races went like this: Varsity Boys, Varsity Girls, JV Boys, and JV Girls.
Seeing how I joined the team late, my friend and I were the only two people running the JV girls race. By that time, the course was a mud pit.
Some hours after our arrival, my race began. A man wearing an orange NEPSAC shirt with a footprint on it shot the gun, and off we went. It was my first and last 5k of the season, and I wanted to finish with a bang. That didn't happen.
In the middle of the course, my heart was going too fast for my body to handle, but my brain was telling my body to keep going. I fell on my knees but I had no control over that either. I calmed my body down and began to race again. I then felt a sharpening pain in my chest, at the bottom of my ribcage. I didn't want to stop, so I slowed my pace down a bit. In doing so, every single girl running the race but one managed to pass me. I kept going.
The course was ridiculously challenging, even the best varsity boys were saying so. People were tripped, and when crossing the finish line, looked like they had showered in mud. I now was at the last stretch, just three hundred feet to go. I could see my team cheering for me, and I knew I couldn't drop out. I crossed the finish line second to last place, but that didn't really matter.
It was my first and last 5k of the season, and I had finished. I tried my best and next year I would come out even harder. Next year I'll be at preseason, running alongside my friends, and working on crossing that finish line.
Yesterday's race proved all I needed to prove to myself. You have to tell yourself to keep going. Pick right back up from where you left off and start off harder, for you'll finish better. The time of the race doesn't matter, the course was challenging anyways. You finished and you crossed the finish line, so you can do it again.