22: Backup Runner

22: Backup Runner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Backup Runner

There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.

~Author Unknown

Sweat dripped from my face as I focused on my breathing. All I needed to do was pass the end line. As I passed through the town, it was just a blur; I seldom recognized anyone in the multitudes. When the water stops came, I grabbed the water, dumped it in my mouth, and took off. The fresh liquid flowed through my body and gave me strength to continue. There was a good chance of getting heat stroke from running in the sun, and if I collapsed I would not complete my objective. The steady beat of my shoes told me I was getting closer to the finish line. I had been running for one hour and forty-five minutes, when I started to think about what had happened that week. Something told me I was meant to have the great experience of running my first half marathon, since I never planned to run, and it had all happened out of the blue.

One of my friends at Masters College was going to run the Valencia Half Marathon, which is 13.1 miles, so he was training over the summer. Then, during a town clean up day, he was lifting a big tree stump and he pulled his back. Unable to run in the race, he asked a man from his dorm if he would like to run in his place. He agreed, and I was speed training with him the last two weeks before the half marathon. Unfortunately, he also got hurt. His ankle was fractured and he was put out of the race.

The pressure was on me since I was training with him. The last half of the week I ran seven miles, the farthest I had ever run at once. I took it easy on Friday and Saturday, and then I began the race at 7:00 A.M. on Sunday. It started out very quickly, and for the first four miles I was out of breath. But then I paced myself.

I had been running for two hours and was on the last mile. The sidelines were full of faces as I made my way to the end of the last turn. I could not think of anything except crossing the finish line. My pace quickened and I was giving all my body would offer. Never before had my fitness been tested so harshly. I was running the farthest I had ever run in my life. My heart was pounding and my stomach was cramping. I would not let it stop me. I rounded the turn and I saw the finish line and I bolted to the end. People were shouting and cheering, but it passed quickly. I was stopped at a large fence and funneled into a mass of people, where I was handed a gold medal because I finished.

I had completed the race. My legs had never been so sore, but I was thrilled. It was a breathtaking first experience I never expected I would have when I came to college. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

~Taylor Sparks

More stories from our partners