It was freshman year and I was 15. I thought I should become “out there” with ambitions, so joining a high school sport was the absolute easiest answer, you get to do real competitions with other schools, it was going to be something I've never done before, while still being reachable. In essence I choose track because I didn't have the confidence that I can do anything better than just run. I remember my first practice, my consent form so white, and unrickled, and my physical form completely filled out with black ink, I was ready. We had to run 4 laps on our first day, I looked at the field shell-shocked, I heard the rest of the girls give a sound of exasperation, and some sucked their teeth. I was completely out of breath, I dragged myself to my water bottle when I was done, and drake desperately and frantically, and collapsed to the ground to rest up my legs. My legs were in agony, they were heavy and unfamiliar and I could hear my heart, and feel it jumping out from under my chest. My chest, the rise and fall of it matching the uneasiness of my breath and so painful. The next day my body ached because after the mile we did core workouts like push ups, bicycles, and sit ups. When I woke up, I felt as if I was trampled over by Topsy the elephant, and my tearing muscles felt like bruises. This was the result of running a mile, I later found out. After that things were not easy, I complained everyday, threatened to quit, and sometimes would refuse to run any faster than I was going when Coach Drew (assistant coach) encouraged me to, which was our dynamic after a while. But I was there for every practice, and every competition meet I think now, looking back, I am a little disappointed in my past self, because I know I could have gone that extra mile, and beat my time, and whatever else I deluded myself into thinking I couldn't do rather than what I wouldn't do. Though I didn't push myself till my second season of track, at 16, I think the real moment track gave me perspective was my first track meet. My first track meet was a contemporary and overwhelming experience, when I walked in my eyes were met with a vast crowd of people watching from above, on their seats, and the huge 200 meter track in the middle of the armory. As I took my first steps I experienced a sensory overload, my nose was immediately filled with the smell of rubber and running shoes, and my ears were bombarded with the sounds of cheering and panting from the tired racers. I felt apprehensive and that feeling traveled down to my stomach and created a visceral and fluttering feeling, and I no longer liked the lingering tangerine flavor that invaded my mouth. I don't remember the date, I don't remember the weather nor the time, what I do remember was that nervous gut; and the place, 216 Fort Washington Avenue in Manhattan. After you were checked in through your number not your name you were to wait on a line to finally step in the track and race. I was the 5th or 4th group to be up to race, I wished I was first so I could get rid of the anticipation. The person who held the starter pistol, yelled loud and clear, “ON YOUR MARK, GET SET,” POW, the starter pistol fired, and the race began I'll keep it short, I ran too fast and the hunger for first place took control of me, and was my undoing. I slowed down around the 3rd lap, I was dead last and my side-stitches stabbed at my waist, and I just walked off. That's right, I walked off the track, girls flew by me as I took a step off the track, I didn't finish my race. My head was pounding, and the smell of rubber and running shoes filled my nose, and the feeling of disappointment filled my heart. After that I was determined to finish that race in the next competition, because If I am able to finish a mile everyday I can do a little over half a mile in a couple of minutes, I just needed to work on pace and confidence. I told my coach I wanted to do that race over, he agreed, I finished it, not with great timing but I finished it, I finished it, that's what I wanted. Now I love it, the pain I feel from an accomplished day of practice, the air when it touches my face as I run and force my way through the wind, I love the smell of my sweat, and the way I can run a lap in a minute and 47 seconds, the way I can touch my toes, and I can do normal pushups and sit ups without anyone holding my feet down, the way I can serve the ball in volleyball now, the way I can. Now I'm 17, I go to the gym and work out my legs for better speed and stamina. I try not to complain but somehow it helps me cope. So yeah 15 year old me was right, high school is a right of passage to adulthood, and along with my lungs becoming more efficient my voice has gotten louder, I communicate better, I don't get mad easily, I know when I'm wrong, I'm braver and I thank track for that, but also thank myself. “I think I'm going to join flag football next season”
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