I slammed the car door behind me and started to sprint toward the unfamiliar school building, looking around as I did; feeling like there was nothing between me and the azure Virginia sky except the kaleidoscopic, picturesque falling leaves of the autumn trees. The innocent hope of my childhood was ricocheting through me; I felt the light, feathery tickling of nerves in my stomach.
“Hey!” laughed my mom, “You’ll wear yourself out before the race even starts!” Immediately I slowed, quickly fearful that she could be right.
The night before, I heard my parents talking in the kitchen while I was supposed to be doing my homework.
“I don’t know why she wants to run this race so badly!” my mother wondered, “She’s never run in her life!” I knew that was true, but there was something whispering to me, quietly nudging at my consciousness, telling me that I should try. The first time I heard about the half-mile race was at my elementary school. My teacher languidly rambled on about the run, indifferently, as if to make it sound as uninteresting as possible. After she finished relaying the required information, she continued to drone on in her monotonous, apathetic tone about some dull aspect of ancient history, but I wasn’t listening. Something on the leaflet she had handed out caught my eye. It was a drawing of girl running through the finish line, an ecstatic, euphoric smile on her face. It was at that point that I made up my mind; I wanted to feel what that girl was feeling. In my childhood naivety, the abrupt intensity of my determination felt like a matter of life or death.
When I got home from school that day I decided to start my training. I hurdled over the “Vote yes! On Issue 4” yard sign, barely clearing it, and ran as fast as I could through the field across the street from my house. At the end I lay down in the grass and waited for my little sister to catch up. Eventually she did, collapsing beside me, huffing and puffing, but proud of herself for finally running as far as her big sister. We lay and looked at the clouds, the trampled grass and crunchy fall leaves matting in our hair, feeling the elation of running, childhood, and the changing seasons.
We got to the registration desk and I safety pinned on my number, showing it off to my parents proudly, and posing for a picture before running to the drink table to pick up some complimentary water. I sat with my Dixie cup under a huge oak tree, watching the other kids coming in and registering. Some of them were stretching, so I decided to follow suit, touching my toes and rolling my shoulders. After what felt like an eternity we were gathered together at the starting line, the parents sprawled out on blankets and foldable sports chairs a small distance away to watch the race. I heard the starting gun go off, and I ran: the sun beating down on my skin, my hair flying behind me, free and wild, my shadow keeping my pace, and everyone else behind me. Down the field I went, happy that I was in the front, experiencing a runner’s high for the first time. At the end of the field, I turned around to run back, but was immediately stopped by the wise, knowing hands of the person showing children where to run. He pointed me towards the track and gently shoved me on my way. I can honestly say that my memories are only a blur of heavy breathing, black rubber, tight muscles, and sweat. In the last few meters of the race I felt numb, like I was floating above my body. I wanted nothing more than to lie in the cool grass like I had a week before, but I kept running. I still felt the determination, and even when two girls passed me, I kept running. Finally I passed the finish line, wheezing and coughing, but I had done it. I held that third place ribbon tightly in my sweaty hands and lay on the ground, knowing that I had finished.
Sometimes you are presented with an opportunity that seems insignificant: an opportunity that would be easy to reject, hard to attempt, and presents a situation that is different from your normal, everyday life. Sometimes you might be told that you cannot; that you won’t accomplish what you set your mind to, what some may say is impossible. But every moment in life is an opportunity to do something new. Everyday, you have a chance to accomplish the impossible, to defy your supposed limits, or to find a new passion. If you are presented with a challenge, throw your whole self into it. You never know if it will end up changing your life. As Helen Keller once said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
(c) Hannah Chappell-Dick
Written as an entry into an essay contest known as "Laws of Life". It was chosen, along with 2 other sophomores and 3 other seniors at her high school, as a winner. We will find out what it won in late January.