Blink, and you’ll miss it


I remember every meet vividly, each image in my mind as piercing and clear as the pain of the race. I remember how the cold spikes felt in my hand the first time I held them. I remember the stampede of fluttering heartbeats lining the start, each girl holding her breath, waiting for the gun.

The forecast for tomorrow’s meet is rain: gloomy, muddy, messy. But nothing can dampen my mood; the team never fails to light up my day, even when it’s dark out.

Each race slowly ticks off the remainder of my last season. The weather is changing quickly, and the time I have left is being ushered away faster than I would want.

For now, though, the only thing I can do is run my heart out and enjoy what I have while I still have it.

I savored each snippet of conversation with my teammates, tucking away memories into the pockets of my heart in hopes of keeping them forever.

The view from the beginning of summer was like a dream: in theory, I had the entire summer and the entire fall to spend doing the sport I love with the team I love. I don’t know how it flew by so quickly.

From the start, I learned the names of new faces on the team. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a teammate– whether that be on a run or in the hallways at school.

While the physical training is important, I believe that these close friendships are the things I will carry on with me, even after our last race together.

As a team, we’ve pushed ourselves at each workout, at each race. Even the little victories could be credited to the togetherness; ice baths were more bearable with a friend, stretching with teammates built unity, and strides hurt less if someone was holding up an encouraging high-five at the end of the track.

All I know is the passion I feel when I huddle up with my girls before a race. All I know is unspoken yet widely felt nervousness while lacing up our spikes and safety pinning our bibs. All I know is the spirit of the team.

Cross country bonds people like no other sport can. The amount of pain and suffering we go through brings us closer; the atmosphere of this team is truly akin to that of family.

Not only have we watched the season change from summer to autumn, we’ve seen our team grow and blossom. No man is an island, and no one could have improved without the support of his or her teammates and coaches.

Each meet brings a different scene. I remember them all.

My first meet ever was at Benzie during sophomore year. There were loudspeakers playing “Eye of the Tiger” as we warmed up. I had no idea what to expect. I can still feel the uncertainty, the lack of confidence in my ability to finish a race.

I remember, during the second mile, feeling pain like I never had before. I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop.

But I saw my teammates, cheering me on along the course. I decided I couldn’t give up now; I had to finish the race for my teammates.

It’s not that I’ve ever been in a position to score points for my team; that’s not what I mean by “finishing for my team.” It’s the support that this team shows for each of its members; a love like that can keep anyone going for 3.1 miles.

This year at our meet in Portage, a teammate had cramps in her side. She wanted to drop during the race, but she didn’t.

A combination of support from teammates and coaches kept her going strong, and she still finished with a fast time.

I told her that what she did took a lot of courage, and I meant it. I knew how difficult it was to finish a painful race, and I often rely on my team to keep me going. Our teammate had trusted us to get her through the race; she had confidence in us, and we had confidence in her.

Running with support changes everything, whether that means running in packs during a race or just cheering on the other races.

I ran with the same teammate at every meet during junior year, and I felt like we were invincible. Nothing could stop us.

We pushed up hills together (and sprinted immediately after the top of the hill, of course). We passed other runners together. We home stretch sprinted together (she still beat me every time, but I was forever thankful for the 3.05 miles we got to run side by side each race).

I’m sitting here, the night before one of my last races of this season– my last season. I don’t know if my jumbled thoughts are coherent.

All I know is the passion I feel when I huddle up with my girls before a race. All I know is unspoken yet widely felt nervousness while lacing up our spikes and safety pinning our bibs. All I know is the spirit of the team.

Fall is coming to an end, and it takes along with it my last cross country season.

Weather-wise, this fall was brief: a shimmer of red leaves before all the trees became barren. Blink, and you missed it.

I tried everything I could to make sure this cross country season wouldn’t zip by as fast as fall weather did. And for the most part, it worked.