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I Have Limitations
As I sat in the grass of Burke County's football field that fateful day in May, my brain was cluttered with questions and thoughts. I was busy making mental notes. Stay low, snap your trail leg, and run when you hit the ground, my mind nagged. Instinctively, I put on my running spikes, removed my warm-ups, and stretched my muscles. My concentration was interrupted as the speakers boomed, "Third and final call for all 100-meter low hurdles." In a blur I was on the starting line, staring down a horizon filled with hurdles.
Beat them to the first hurdle with a quick start, and you have a chance to win. CRACK! The startling noise the gun made brought me back to reality. Clearing the first hurdle in perfect form, I ran with all my might. I lunged toward the finish line after I soared over the final hurdle. Looking ahead of me, I saw only one other runner. I had qualified for the regional finals! My coach's smile said everything I wanted to hear.
Walking off the rubber track, my heart was at the same time both light and heavy. I was thrilled by my qualification, but I knew the next day would be horrid. Coach Gaddy firmly said, "You know what you have to do to advance."
Finally, following what seemed like an eternity, Friday arrived. After dwelling on the race, I had butterflies the size of pelicans waiting for the opportunity to take me away. While running a warm-up lap, I realized I had let my tension get the best of me. My leg muscles felt like rocks. All you need to do is focus and put things in place. Just then, coach tapped me on the shoulder. He had been informed that I had the third fastest time in my heat, and I would be running in lane five. "Run the best race of your life, and you have a great chance at going to state," he said. I was relieved to know I only needed to recover one place to advance. My fears slowly and gently began to subside, and my confidence started to build. While I was engrossed in my wind sprints, I heard, "Second call, all 100-meter low hurdles.
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When I approached my block, I felt as though a freight train were roaring through my head. My pulse had risen at an alarming rate, and as a result, I could feel it in my ears. "Step behind your block," the starter demanded. It was then I glanced at my competitors, who were showing no emotion, no fear. I couldn't hear the rules over my heart's drum-like rhythm. Adrenalin had made every part of my body numb. Without hesitation the first command was given. "Runners take your mark!" As if we had been programmed, we gracefully climbed into our blocks. Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink. The noise of sixteen feet entering their blocks began to compete with the sound of my heart. My arms began to tremble when I heard, "Get set!" As the starter raised his arm, I heard the pistol being cocked. Like stone statues, we held our positions until a runner faltered. The gun double-fired, a sure indication of a false start. All the runners walked back to the line with their heads bowed, each silently praying that she wasn't the one being disqualified. The runner in lane six removed her block and walked off the track, anguish distorting her face.
The false start had broken my focus. Looking at the 100 meters and the 10 hurdles I had to clear, I felt unable and afraid. Because my confidence had faded, I began to worry about falls and jumping the gun. Sensing our anxiety, the starter gave the commands more quickly this time. "Runners take your mark." Sweat began to bead on my face and run down my nose. "Get set!" I felt as though someone had cut off my air supply. The mesh on my uniform was irritating my stomach. KAPOW!! Suddenly, like a rubber band I was flying over the first hurdle. I was behind. I had to catch up. Stay low! Reach, Rhonda, you have to reach! Run through the hurdle. Don't jump it! Run! Run! Run! Use that stride! Run, I said, run! I passed a few runners, and each time the next runner became my focus. Then I realized only one hurdle stood between me and the finish. As I crossed the line, my heart hit rock bottom. One, two, three. One, two, three. That couldn't be right. As I counted again, reality knocked me down. Instead of gaining a place, I had lost one. Before anyone could tell me fourth was good, I was out of the stadium. I never found out my time.
Immediately, I began berating myself. There was no room for error. How could you let those mistakes seep into your performance? I was screaming inside, and I was desperately trying to suppress the outburst fighting to escape. My eyes began to burn as they brimmed with tears. You will not cry. None of these people, not even your teammates, can know you're vulnerable. My hands were shaking violently, making my spikes impossible to untie. How could you be so stupid? What made you think you could win? Now you've disappointed everyone! That night, in a silent school bus, I shut everyone out. Everything was supposed to work out. How could you let this happen? For about two days, a hollow ache plagued me. I kept hoping the experience was a bad dream, but I didn't wake up. Life goes on. Deal with your disappointment and move on. Don't expect everything to stop for your pain. In pondering the week's events, I began to view life as an extensive hurdle race. Every participant starts in the same position. Obstacles cloud our horizons, just as hurdles do the track. Our progress can be delayed by hitting our knees as we attempt to soar over the hurdles. As a result, there is a dull aching pain there to remind us of our mistakes. Often the worst happens, and we take complete falls. These falls shouldn't stop our race, only delay it. The power lies in the ability to get up and start running again. We're in the race to finish. The desire is to finish first, but just to finish is triumph. That's where true joy comes from.
Looking back on that day, I still detest the fact that I didn't advance to state. Through this disappointment, I now understand I have limitations. Acting immaturely and not being able to accept disappointment will not change that. I am now more prepared for the race of life and the hurdles that come with it. As I am rehearsing for the real world through college, I see myself in the starting block once again. This time, I'm focused, there is sweat on my brow, my heart is pounding, and I'm ready to lunge toward my first hurdle. I can distinctly hear those I love coaching me. Quit taking baby steps and open up that stride! Run, Rhonda, run! Keep low and loosen up. Relax! Run! Run! Run! . . . . Somewhere in the far distance there is a finish line, and I will run full speed until I reach it