"Runners to your marks."
My body froze, as if I had just jumped into a tub of ice.
I got in my blocks, struggling to concentrate and drive away the chilling thoughts that were running through my mind. I took a deep breath to push them all away.
The gun cracked. My legs took over and my fears were silenced.
One year ago, the red surface of the track burned my bare feet. The sun was shining as bright as the hope in each runner's eye. There was no wind and the sky was cloudless. The stands were full, but I don't remember hearing the roar of the crowd. All of my senses were focused on running.
The race was the 4x200 relay, my favorite event. We were placed in lane four, the fast lane. So many emotions were coming over me especially nervousness and excitement. The gun went off and my heart skipped a beat.
I had a fast start out of the blocks; I was already making up the stagger.
I ate up even more of the track, creating a visible lead.
All I had left to do was hand-off the baton. Four months of practicing hand-offs made me confident that this would be like any other.
As I pumped my arm to run, I felt the end of the baton hit my thigh and fall out of my hand. The sound of metal hitting the ground is a sound I still hate to hear. The baton hit the track hard and rolled away from me taking with it all my joy. I was motionless, there was nothing I could do but watch the other runners pass me, stealing my race.
I hung my head as I walked by my teammates. I had let them down. I felt lightheaded and dizzy, the heat all of a sudden became intense and the once happy sun was now mocking me. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I felt as if everyone who looked at me was saying, "That's the girl who dropped the baton." I could have left the track that day and never ran again and I wouldn't have cared.
Now here I was.
Could I overcome the anxiety of last year's accident? I was physically and mentally prepared for this race. The sound of metal hitting the track kept playing in my mind.
"On your mark."
I drove out of my blocks as if someone had lit fire under my shoes, I felt strong. I made it through my two hundred and sighed with relief after the hand-off. There was nothing more I could do but watch and cheer for my teammates.
An hour later as my team and I were standing on the winners' podium, I knew I had overcome my fear. I had conquered one of the hardest things a person can, myself.
Copyright © 2007 April Stottlemyre
Running has been a part of me all my life. Perseverance, determination and conquering your fears are all things I learned on the track and are lessons that I can apply to my real life.