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I am breathing heavily, not from fatigue but simply the anticipation of exhaustion. My heart beats fast, waiting for the sharp pierce in the air. Finally, the gun fires, and I see fifty pairs of legs begin flying, and soon realize mine is among them. I look around and see the faces of those around me. I question why I decided to participate in such a sport. Realistically, I cannot expect to beat any of them, and yet I hear cheers from behind. The people I have left behind, and will soon see again, remind me why such a painful experience will be remembered as one of the most positive of my life.
Some can find inspiration in occurrences as routine as a sunrise. On the contrary, for something to inspire me, it must truly have impacted my life in a profound way. Consequently, I find it impossible to select a single person who has influenced me significantly, for all who influence me truly deserve the recognition. Thus, I choose rather to describe a closely-connected group of people who, without their presence in my life, I would undoubtedly be a different person today.
Over the summer, my friend Justin, captain of the cross-country team, invited me to lunch. Expecting no pretext, I readily accepted. Unbeknownst to me, Justin's ulterior motive was to take me to the first cross-country practice of the summer. Had he not used such deception, I assuredly would not have joined the team; for years prior simply requesting that I join had proven to no avail. Justin had but one thing to say to me: “If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't have taken AP Chemistry. I'm just returning the favor.” I had on a polo shirt and khaki shorts, yet they still expected me to run.
Initially, my participation was minimal; I never expected to actually join, thinking to myself, “Where is the fun in simply running?” However, the coach, who had for years jocularly suggested that I become a member of the team, was now unwavering in her decision to make me join. Looking back now, I am glad I did not protest. Although I am proud to have sung the motto “Our sport is your sport’s punishment,” the physical benefits of the sport need not be elaborated upon. On the contrary, the inspirational people on the team to whom I became close deserve volumes of recognition.
Coach Sabrina Lucas could not have been more encouraging in her approach to the sport. She focused on improving the scores of all members of her team, not just the top runners. Furthermore, unlike the coaches of most other sports, she ran alongside us, even participating in the New York City Marathon. I have never needed a teacher to motivate me to keep up my studies; my coach was the first one to teach me the power of encouragement.
Teammate CJ, to whom we dedicated our season, has been a major source of inspiration for me. His mental fortitude in the face of severely wretched misfortunes moves me to wonder whether I would have held so strong. Early in the season, CJ was found to have a large tumor on his tailbone. After months of frightful surgeries, he was able to return to support the team as we won a sectional title, and even ran in the last race of the season. To overcome such obstacles, running five kilometers only weeks after confronting a chillingly real possibility of paralysis – I can only hope to live to be so resilient.
There is not a member on the team I could describe without respect. Alas, I cannot go into detail regarding how Justin succeeded despite his battle with diabetes, or how Heather practiced daily despite her ACL injury. Nevertheless, I can say without a doubt that every member of the team effected me in a deeply positive way. These fellow runners have become my second family.
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