“Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud, and how does it relate to the person you are?”
My alarm clock sounds. I roll over only to see neon red LED lights staring me directly in the face, reading 4:30 AM. At first, I ask myself, “Why? Why on earth am I waking up this early?” Reality hits me. Today is my first cross country race of the season. Today is test day; my countless hours of training and preparation are to be evaluated. As I slowly sit up to shut off my alarm, thoughts rush through my head like Nascar cars racing past a spectator. “Will I perform up to expectations?” I ask myself. Today is race day.
In the creepy darkness of the early morning, I start my car with excitement and head over to meet my team at the bus. I notice that the barren, blackened streets are spotted with streetlights as I make my way to school. There are no sounds of crickets chirping outside; they have either fallen asleep or died from the extreme cold of the morning. When I arrive at the bus, I check in with my coach. On the bus ride, I prepare mentally. I go over every inch of the race course and constantly read over my goal cards. “Positive thoughts ONLY…” I think, “The weather is perfect, I am completely prepared, and I feel good!” As I get off the bus and look at my surroundings, my level of focus and concentration is honed to perfection. Other teams are warming up, athletes are stretching, and coaches are finishing up preparing their game plan and strategies. The Westlake Warriors have arrived!
As I approach the starting line, I go over all of my preparations to boost my confidence, that is, eating right, hydrating continuously, warming up, and having good practices all week. My eyes wander around the other runners at the starting line. Looking at my teammates, I realize that together, we have a job to complete, a goal to reach, and a mission to accomplish. The feeling of adrenaline is now rushing through my body as I line up beside my fellow varsity runners. The gun is shot, and everything is silent. My line of sight becomes narrow. I hear nothing – nothing but the race. I see nothing – nothing but the race. My senses are distorted, and I sprint off into the distance to keep with the top group of runners. Although everything is a blur, I am able to focus only on what I must do to fulfill my goals and complete my job. Giving it my all, I preserve physically and mentally throughout the entire race, rushing through in a cold state of panic into the finish line. I congratulate the other runners and depart from the scene content, proud, and satisfied – a reward like no other.
Why do I do this? To the average person, running is not something to enjoy. Running trail runs twice or three times a day during the heat of the summer would be thought as crazy. Going on both twelve mile endurance runs and four mile tempo runs right after you finish with a long day of classes would be thought of as ridiculous. Furthermore, my sport is most other sports’ punishment. I run because it is my passion. I love both the internal and external reward, the environment of the team, the satisfaction I get, and the “runner’s high” I feel when I run.
Throughout my cross country experiences in high school, I have learned three vital aspects of running: I must think positive thoughts only about each race and each practice, racing is all mental, and, in the end, it comes down to who wants to win the most. Learning these things will certainly help me later in my life – both in college and in my job. Positive thinking, determination, and mental toughness are key ingredients to a successful life. In the end, I can say that I have truly tried my hardest and have met all of my goals. Once the season has ended, my hard work is revealed as I walk up to shake the coaches’ hands at the cross country banquet. I have received the Most Improved Junior Varsity Runner award for two consecutive years. In addition, I have earned the Scholar Athlete award, the Coaches Scholarship award, the Three Year Senior Team Runner award, and the Varsity Letter award for this season. But, as I look back at the season, holding a fistful of awards in my hand, I realize that the best rewards are the lessons I have learned about both running and life. I am now entirely satisfied.