Competition, Nerves and Powering Through

There’s nothing like the feeling I get right before a race. The strange combination of excitement and anxiety makes butterflies in my stomach, and I wonder just how fast I’ll be able to run.

My first high school cross country race, I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be able to keep up with the fastest racers? What did the course look like? I wanted to impress all of my teammates, so I decided to go out there and run my best.

Well, I didn’t keep up with the fastest kids on my team. I wasn’t even close. The butterflies in my stomach had melted more into a tired satisfaction right after the race, though. It was another feeling like no other.

In my first year of cross country, I fell in love with running, and everything about it. Being with the team, beating my personal best, training through the hot and cold just to see how good I could get. It all made school so much easier, knowing that right after I finished slogging through algebra I’d see all my friends and train.

I wasn’t able to run or really walk normally my sophomore or junior year because of arthritis in my hips, though I didn’t know it was arthritis at the time. It made me sad. I stopped talking to my teammates.

My sophomore year I tried desperately to recover and return to running in a blaze of glory but to no avail. I was pretty bitter, and would often say things I regret about my teammates to my parents, just to vent my frustrations. My junior year, after being told over the summer that I yet again had more stress fractures, I gave up entirely, and tried to find other ways to replicate the same feelings that running had given me.

Nothing really worked.

I joined a few clubs and tried some new classes in school, but couldn’t find the same fulfillment. I wondered how I would deal with my senior year and college without being able to do much more than walk with a slight limp. It all seemed too hard to cope with, especially since I had loved athletics for most of my life. Other hobbies I had tried, like music and coding on computers, seemed more like an attempt to say that I was doing something, rather than sitting around.

I started running again this summer. I get these nifty little shots every few weeks to help my hips actually work and I couldn’t be happier about it, really. I’m just happy that I get to train again, and feel the wind as I run down a hill. To be honest, I don’t know what I would have done if we still didn’t know what was wrong with me. I’m trying to just integrate with my team again, and run for more than a few miles without my calves burning.

It’s weird being a beginner again. My teammates are all faster than I am and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to catch up to them. Mostly, I’m just happy that I can talk to them and get back to being in decent shape after two years of time off. Maybe one day I’ll be at the front of the race, but for now I need to make sure I’m not at the back.

~ By Elias Born, Conifer High School '18