The finish line of a cross country race is the definition of chaos. I have witnessed athletes cross the finish line and one after the other will collapse, throw up, or burst into tears. The course volunteers have been conditioned to expect this, and continue to yell, “keep moving,” ushering the athletes through the shoot.
Despite this chaos, clear evidence that these runners left every ounce of effort they have on the course, this is not what I find the most amazing. These runners are simultaneously smiling, picking their competitors up from the ground and helping them walk again, and congratulating the runner who finished ahead of them.
There are coaches from rival schools patting athletes from across town on the back. All around there are amazing acts of comradery amongst amazing acts of athleticism. At the starting line there are young people riddled with anxiety about the race they are about to begin, completely aware their body will be pushed to the limits. Yet, there are competitors shaking hands, wishing each other good luck, and smiling, because they are aware they are going to get through this challenge together.
I have been lucky enough to find myself in this world, the world of running, of track and cross country, winter running club and summer conditioning.
Running has become a defining part of my entire being. I have learned to love the challenge, the feeling of my lungs heaving, my muscles aching, and my body being sweat-purged. The challenge only continues to motivate me to try harder.
There is always a goal to be working towards, and when you reach it, you make a new one and try again. There is a run for every day, for your tired days you run slow, for your sad days you surround yourself with friends and run long, for your happy days you run hard and are thankful for your working body.
Running is the sport that remains with someone for the rest of their life, when your body slows down, you slow down, but you do not stop. I witness at local races people young and old running alongside each other, children to the elderly, all working towards the same goal, cheering each other on.
Running brings people together, and after spending four years becoming the runner I am today and surrounding myself with the best of running friends I could have asked for, I look to the Fall and know that soon I will be moving on to a new life. While I will leave my high school career in the past, I do not leave running, nor do I leave my running friends.
The immediate goal when I arrive at college will be to find a group of runners to support me and run with me in a new phase of my life, because I know that running people are my people, and what motivates me to run is to be alongside them.