As I watched green trees fly by and listened to the humming of the car engine, I wiped off my sweaty palms and let out a breath I didn't know I was holding. Today was my first official track meet on the Woodward track team. No, scratch that. It was my first track meet ever. I had been in a swimming competition before, but you can't really compare the two sports. While swimming, when you're doing freestyle or butterfly, it's only you and the water. It's really quite impossible to sense anything else on account of the pure adrenaline rush and the heavily chlorinated water pounding in your ears. Running the 800-meter was going to be so different, I wasn't sure I could comprehend it. My nervous thoughts and I were interrupted by my dad, tapping on the steering wheel of our weather (and child) beaten minivan.
"You excited for today?"
I whipped my head up, startled. "Uhh…yeah. Yeah." I stammered, too paralyzed to say much more.
"Just run fast, okay? I'll go park the car." He encouraged cheerily. I hadn't noticed it, but we had stopped in front of the host school already.
"Okay. See you in the bleachers…" I put a forced simper on my face and held my old blue gym bag with an iron grip as I gingerly entered the gates.
When I got to the seating arena, I snapped out of what seemed like a trance. Apparently, I had walked in, said "hello" to a few people, gotten my official "name sticker" from somebody, (I don't really remember who…I was completely out of it) and sat down, while practically in comatose. Strange, huh?
I waited. And waited. Cheered on a few teammates. And waited some more. I was such a wreck (at least in my mind) that I seriously contemplated picking up my bag and leaving. I listened to the screams from the crowd and could smell what was like a choking, noxious fog of energy drink. I wondered what was taking my dad so long to park the car.
Years passed before an ominous voice came out of nowhere and boomed, "Ninth grade girls for 800-meter. Please report to the center of the field."
I jumped a foot off my seat, hoping I hadn't heard correctly. Unfortunately, I spied several girls getting up to report for the event. I gulped and stood up, probably sweating more now than I would when the race was actually over. Somehow I managed to float over to the officials' table and hand them my sticker, pulling at the collar of my jersey. I soon discovered that you had to have your sticker in order to run the event, so they could record your information accurately. Perhaps I should have just "forgotten" my sticker...
The man at the table took all of the runners' stickers and started telling us a story about his three-year-old granddaughter. I didn't care too much for his tale; neither did the girl next to me.
"You nervous?" I looked up at the blonde haired girl with freckles and braces.
"Yeah…very. You?" I managed a small smile.
"I nearly fell flat on my face, I was shaking so hard." She laughed, showing off her multicolored teeth.
"Hopefully…it won't be as bad as we think it will. Right?" I said quietly.
She shrugged. "You're probably right."
We both turned around as the man at the table started a new story.
"Okay, girls, after this event, it's your turn." He walked down the rows, telling us what to do and when to start.
"When you get to the track, stand with your toes behind the curved line at the starting point. You can move inside as soon as you want to, just don't cut anybody off." He sounded very professional-like.
I tried to focus, I really did. But my teeth were almost chattering. I stumbled over to the line, she shouts from the audience echoing in my ears.
I closed my eyes and opened them, and the world had pressed its mute button. It was just me and the track, and I knew somehow that I could do it.
The starting shot was fired, and I took off. The first ten feet was just a huge blur. As soon as the haze in my head cleared, I almost screamed. I was actually NOT a mile behind everyone else. In fact, fourth place so far. Amazing. I was shocked, but kept my composure. Strangely, I didn't realize that I had already cut to the inside of the track.
Now halfway finished with the first lap, a girl behind me decided to run a little faster, to my dismay. Not able to keep up, I fell behind. Okay. That's all right. I concentrated best I could-for a little while. At the start of the second lap, I was beginning to tire. Against my will, I slowed down just the slightest.
Watching helplessly as another runner passed me, I resolved to keep my current pace. Halfway through the second lap, though, I was breathing more and more heavily. My throat was as dry as the Sahara. Two more competitors could be seen overtaking the raven-haired one from Woodward. Something clicked inside my head, and it seemed to propel me forward.
I wasn't going to take that. Now a mere hundred meters from the finish, I pumped my legs faster and faster. And even faster, kicking up dust so hard that I was worried for the safety of the runners behind me.
I couldn't see anything but the dirt track in front of me. I imagined a tiger chasing me, contemplating its next meal. Everything stopped. I leaped over the finish line, and could only stand and pant…until I realized that I had finished in seventh place. Seventh place! Blinded by happiness and grinning with joy, I glanced up to see my dad in the stands, screaming his head off. Next to him was a little boy, yelling and waving his arms everywhere. That's why he had taken so long to park the car. He had gone home to pick up my little brother.
It was at that moment that I realized that I was stupid thinking I couldn't do it. I never should have doubted. Though I was thoroughly paralyzed in the beginning, I discovered that you'll have no idea you can do it, but before you know it you're halfway there and nothing else even matters…in that split second. At that moment, I knew that the body is only as strong as the mind thinks it is. And with that, I can accomplish most anything.