It was a breezy autumn day. All the leaves on the trees had transformed from their bright green color, and had all become hues of reds, oranges, and yellows, making every tree look like a small fire explosion or burst of a firework. The breeze blew slightly, and a small wave of leaves were blown across a dirt road. The very air seemed to have a tinge or orange in the setting afternoon sun
There was a soft, rhythmic pounding sound on the road, as a cross country runner jogged down it for his daily workout for practice, crunching the fallen leaves under his feet. He looked around at his surroundings, taking them in and to take his mind off of his side ache. To his right was the forest, splashed into life with the colors of fall. To his left was a pumpkin patch, full of a countless number of gourds, and small children there with their parents, walking through the field looking for that perfect pumpkin worthy for them to carve.
The runner turned his attention back to the hard, worn road, trodden flat and rutted from hundreds of other runners' feet practicing and racing on it. It was then that Spencer noticed a difference in the normal sound of feet pounding on the earth.
Spencer was one of the top runners on his cross country team, and he was used to the sound and rhythm of only one pair of feet running at once, as he would always run by himself as to not have anyone that could hold him back in training.
Spencer quickly glanced behind him, careful not to trip over a small rut while looking, and looked to see who was coming up behind him. He saw another boy, about his age he guessed, jogging up behind him. He turned his head back to normal position as the stranger ran up along side him.
"Evening!" the boy said.
"How's it going?" Spencer asked.
"Great! Man your fast… I saw you a ways back there and have been trying to catch up to you for a while!"
"Well that's a first!" Spencer laughed, "Hardly anyone is ever able to keep up with me!"
The boy laughed for a second also, and then stuck out his hand saying,
Spencer looked at his hand for a moment, and then took it in his and shook it, saying,
"Nice to meet'cha man!" Jason said.
"Same here." Spencer replied.
"So, uh, you in high school yet?"
"Sure am! I'm a junior this year!" Spencer said proudly.
"What year are you in?"
"I'm a junior too."
"Guess you're on the cross country team?"
"Sure am! I was one of the top people on my team!"
"Yeah, I transferring schools right now…" Jason said.
"Do you know where you're going to go?"
Jason was about to answer Spencer's question, but his watch beeped, and he said,
"Oh, I have to turn around now. Guess I'll, see you around then? You come to Twisted Limb Park often?"
"Yeah, about once a week for practice."
"Ok, I'll probably be here for mine then! See ya!" and Jason turned around and started to head back.
For the rest of his work out, Spencer spent thinking about his new friend that had seemingly come from no where. Soon it came time for his to turn around and head back home. In a few hours he would have to go to bed, and he still had dinner to eat and homework to do. In one day there was a race, and the week after that, it was the state championships. Spencer had always been in the top ten finishers, and this year, he was determined to take first place and bring home a trophy.
After 30 minutes of running back to his car, Spencer drove home, and did his homework and enjoying a meal of rice and squash, reading his history book at the same time. Soon after dinner, as it became darker and darker outside, Spencer's eyes began to droop he noticed. He decided to shower, and then go to bed. He put away his homework, and took a quick, steam filled shower to soother his tired muscles from the last few weeks of cross country season. Soon after, he lumbered off to his room, where he plopped down onto his bed, and let sleep over take him.
He awoke after what had seemed like only seconds of sleep at six o clock in the morning. He slowly got dressed, and prepared for his morning routine for school: brush, floss, eat, look over homework, do his hair, and other things of that nature, until it was time to leave the house and make the commute to Westward High.
School went as it normally did. His classes passed by slowly, Spencer zoning in and out of them periodically. It wasn't about when his practice started that he started to wake up, after all, three o clock in the afternoon was his normal wake up time in the summer! One thing that really woke him up that day however was the presence of Jason standing among his team!
"Jason! What are you doing here?!" Spencer exclaimed.
"Hey man! I didn't know you went to Westward High!" Jason yelled, "I told you I was transferring! And now, here I am!"
"That's great! So how do you like the school so far then?"
"Oh, it's great! Teachers are all nice, homework isn't to bad… I've made a lot of new friends though! You were my first!"
"That's awesome your coming here now!"
"Yeah! So, um, I have a question…"
"Umm, sure… what is it?"
"Well, yesterday it seemed like we are both around the same skill level in running… so I was wondering if we could be running partners?" Jason asked timidly.
"Umm, sure, I guess…" Spencer replied, shocked having not been used to having people run with him.
Just then the coach blew his whistle shrilly, and everyone was told the work out. The team warmed up, stretched, and soon they were off into each of their groups to run the work out, which was short considering there was a race tomorrow.
"Wow! Only a 30 minute run? That's great!" Jason exclaimed.
"Yep! We gotta be rested up for the race tomorrow! And then after that, it's the state championships! Are you planning on running it?" Spencer asked.
"Um, I don't see why not! Just one more race… it wouldn't hurt…"
"Have you ever run it before?"
"Oh yeah! Every year since freshman year I've ran it! Been in the top ten every time!" Jason said puffing out his chest in pride.
"Really?! I have been to! Funny I don't recognize you…"
"Well you certainly will this race! Cause I'm gunna be the one in first!"
"Sorry man, but, I'm afraid I'm gunna be the one taking home that trophy…" Spencer replied.
"….is that a challenge?"
"No! Not at all! Because I know I'm gunna take first place."
"You can't take first place! Because I'm gunna! I've trained all year for that!"
"So have I! That trophies mine…"
"Well there's still tomorrows race… you can have the district trophy!"
"Ha! I don't think so!" Spencer laughed, "Both of those trophies are mine!"
"They are not! Your gunna have to beat me!"
"And your gunna have to beat me!"
Jason smiled for a moment, then said,
"So we have a challenge then?"
"I believe we do." Spencer accepted.
Just then the watch beeped, and it was time to turn around. Spencer looked at Jason, and Jason returned the look. And in an instant, they were off, sprinting down the trail, racing each other to prove who was going to win the championship trophy. They never finished their race however because the coach saw them, and said,
"Hey! You two! Slow it down! We have a race tomorrow!! Now I want five striders out of you two!" he said blowing his whistle.
Spencer and Jason quickly slowed their pace, and jogged to the football field to do their punishment strides. Jason started first however, so they were not raced. The two friends soon said their good byes, and set off for home, ready to prepare for the up coming race tomorrow.
Once Spencer was home, he began his daily course of action after practice. He grabbed his homework, and started to work on it, while his mother prepared a large meal of spaghetti and French bread so that he could load up on carbohydrates for tomorrows race, which if why he later had three large helpings of spaghetti and meatballs once it was ready. He promptly cleaned up, took a shower, and then headed off to bed earlier for usual. His coach always said: "get a good nights rest before a race, other wise you'll fall asleep running!"
Spencer didn't believe this, but he still knew it made a difference to go to bed earlier, not before having a few bananas to aid him in his race tomorrow though. He went to bed with thoughts of tomorrows race buzzing around in his head. He was sure he would have done great, if he had not woken up in the middle of the night for being sick to his stomach.
He woke up again in the morning feeling even worse. His mom was standing over him, and she said,
"You definitely do not look well enough for school. You are staying home. Both from school and your cross country meet." And with that, she walked out of the room, and closed the door behind her. Spencer just lay there, staring up at the ceiling cursing his bad luck, because that's about all the strength he had to do! And for the next few days, that's how it was for Spencer. Sick in bed with the stomach flu, probably from something from the lunch room he thought. He was extremely irritated that he had missed the district race though. This also meant that he would have to work harder to be at his full strength for the state championships the next week in order to beat Jason.
Spencer spent the day of the race, and the next few days after sleeping and eating hardly anything. However, despite his sick status, he still pushed himself to at least spend a little time on his mothers' indoor bicycle each day.
When he was finally well enough to return to school and start his practice again, Spencer was greeted by a team that missed him, and of course, missed homework. He may have lost a little of his speed, but that however was soon recovered in the next two practices, and soon, he was ready for the state championships. He had not been able to run with Jason the practices before he was better thought because the coach would not allow him to in his condition. However, on the day before the race, the coach decided that Spencer was once again at the top of his game, and allowed him to run the practice just as he had before.
On the practice of the day before the championships, Spencer and Jason ran together. Jason told him everything he had missed at school and the race, such as how he had taken first place and had gotten an A on an English paper he had been working on that Spencer had not yet had the chance to turn in yet.
"Ha ha, you can have any place you want Jason, except for first, because that is still where I'm going to be!" Spencer laughed.
"You just keep telling yourself that… until after you finish behind me of course!" Jason replied.
"I guess we will just find out tomorrow! Even though I already know it's going to be me… good luck though!"
"Oh, I see… but I think you're the one who will be needing luck!"
"We'll see…" Spencer said.
And so arrived the day of the state championships. The team was to meet at Twisted Limb Park for the race, which for Spencer, Jason, and all the other boys, would start at 11 o-clock in the morning. Spencer and Jason had agreed that Spencer would be the one to drive the two of them to the race, considering Jason was yet to take his driver's license test. The twosome arrived at the park, and jogged around until they found the rest of their team already warming up.
It may have been over an hour until the race started, but time always seemed to fly by for Spencer at races, because the next thing he knew, the coach was ordering them to head to the starting line.
All of the teams stood and waited at the starting line for a few minutes as they waited for the announcer to fire his gun. They all saw a man stride out to the center of the start in an officials uniform with a starting gun. For Spencer, this was the worst part of the race—the very beginning right before the gun shot, and right after. His chest tightened, and his pulse raced as the state cross country championships started to get under way.
The official raised up his arm and yell,
"Runners to your mark!" the entire starting line of runners snapped to attention and stood ready at the line.
"Get set!" the official yelled.
The runner took a small step back, and lowered their heads and torsos.
BANG! The gun had been shot, and the runners lurched forward in a jungle of moving legs and pumping arms! Spencer had started out at an almost sprint to take his place in the front pack of the race, where he decided to stay until the last mile where he would go all out and hopefully take home the trophy. It was then he noticed Jason was also in the pack, and he realized this was going to be one of his hardest races yet. Little did he know however, that Jason was thinking the exact same thing.
It was about this time that in every race, Spencer began to have his mind wander to other places and thoughts, leaving his body's natural instinct to run and navigate on its own. He allowed his lungs to take in their full volume of air in large and long gasps to maintain the maximum amount of oxygen in his muscles and blood. Sweat began to drip down his forehead and cling to his eyelashes, as his hair was parted from his speed. He felt his feet thud onto the ground with each stride he took, the sound of other runners completely oblivious to him. He was so caught up in the small simple details of what he was doing to notice that Jason had been alongside him the whole race, which was nearing the end in less than a mile now.
Spencer's watch beeped in warning, he having set it to beep so he would know to start increasing his speed and passing other runners. He took the watches warning, and increased his stride, his jersey rippling in the passing wind. He slowly passed runner after runner, climbing place by place, until he was at the front. It was at that point in the race he noticed Jason was with him. They were rounding the corner onto the road where the two friends had first met, and the finish line was in sight, less that 400 meters away. He entered onto the road, Jason right alongside, and crowds of people on either side of the road, their booming and deafening cheers a blur, as was the fall colors of the passing trees and pumpkin patch.
The finish line was quickly in sight, less than 100 meters away now. Spencer started to sprint, and so did Jason. One gained a small lead in front of the other, and the other refused to be beat and caught back up. The crowd seemed silent now their pulses were pounding so hard in their ears. The officials seeing they would need a camera for a photo finish began to prepare the sensor.
The two runners sprinted with all their might, their chests heaving as their bodies were pushed to their limits, sweat flooding from their torso and head. They neared the finish line, and sprinting with all their might, both Spencer and Jason determined to take home the trophy, went even harder to beat the other, the crowds and scenery around them a blur, and utterly non-existent. They sprinted with all their might, trying to pass the other, and then, the photo was flashed, and the race was over.