Love to Run
Chapter 10 – Lisa Shows Grit
It wasn’t Lisa’s first race, yet it was different from any race she’d ever run. The runners were super serious. She stared at the runners on either side. They were bouncing on their feet, some were deep breathing, all had their eyes on the starter.
When the starter’s air horn sounded the entire field of runners moved as a great tidal wave swallowing the grassy field. Lisa felt an elbow dig into her right arm, she winced.
She tried to cut a diagonal toward the path, but her way was blocked by all the runners who drew lower numbers. A sense of anger seemed to grow within her. She felt it was unfair having to start with such a disadvantage. She looked toward the path, she couldn’t see the leaders, they were already out ahead and on the path that entered the wooded section of the race route.
If a drone were flying overhead and snapped a series of photos of the runners crossing the grassy field, the photos would appear as a great horde forming a funnel. Lisa now found herself entering into the narrow part of the funnel and the path into the wooded section was only twenty yards ahead. Once Lisa was on the path she quickly passed the slower runners in front of her. She had no idea what place she was in. She knew she had yet to pass any of her teammates. She didn’t feel anxious. She felt strong. She felt confident. She remembered Nicole texting her, telling her to run her best and it’ll take care of the rest. Lisa concentrated on her stride. She counted ten strides and then repeated the count. She paid no attention to who was in front of her. She became aware of people watching the race and cheering the runners on. When they came out of the wooded section, she thought she heard her dad yell, looking good Lisa, looking good. She wasn’t sure. She kept counting strides.
When Lisa saw the first hill looming fifty yards in front of her, she lengthened her stride. Halfway up the hill, she realized all the hill work she did on Mason’s Hill was paying off. As she reached the crest of the hill she sprinted down the hill to where it curved and dipped down into a tunnel that went under a main road. After she cleared the tunnel she settled back into her race pace.
Six hundred yards later, Lisa was on a straight away rising gradually toward the second second hill. It was longer and steeper than the first hill. A group of runners were already half way up the hill, Lisa knew they were the leaders. She could recognize Mia, Marie and Leah by their running form. There was only a mile left to the race after the second hill. That’s what Nicole said. A second group was fifty yards further back. Lisa was running fourth in the third group ten yards behind the second group.
In the back of her mind, she remembered something Nicole told her. “You always give it all you got. When I go to college I’m going to remember that Lisa. Give it all I’ve got all the time. We can always think of each other giving it all we got. It will connect us.”
At the time, Lisa didn’t understand what Nicole meant when she said, giving it all she had would connect them. Lisa was now running as fast as she had ever run in her life, she began to understand what Nicole meant. She sensed Nicole running beside her, encouraging her, telling her to make her proud. Lisa’s legs screamed they couldn’t go any faster. Her mind fought back and demanded her legs move faster. Lisa broke away from the third pack and was now running at the back end of the second pack of eight cross-country runners. She saw three of her teammates bunched together in this pack. Dig deeper, dig deeper. Give it all you’ve got, she shouted to herself over and over again. With ever stride she repeated her mantra.
At the top of the hill, She looked down and saw the white chalk mark gently curve to the left, cross a bridge over a stream and then turn to the road leading to the finish line. She gauged the distance between the lead pack and her at sixty yards. She was now running on the outside of the second pack, moving slowly toward the front. Moments before she crested the hill, she began to sprint.
Lisa’s arms pumped vigorously trying to pull her urge her legs on. Her chest ached, her body begged her to slow down. No, I won’t slow down, I won’t quit, she told herself. She didn’t know how much she had left. She knew her energy level was slipping away. You can dig deeper, you know you can. Dig deeper. Dig deeper. Dig Deeper. Give it all you’ve got said aloud. She stopped looking ahead toward the leaders. Instead, she kept her gaze on the trail five to ten yards in front. Occasionally, she looked up to make sure she stayed on course. She no longer paid attention to who was in front of her. She hurt too bad to think about it.
She heard people screaming. She looked up, the finish line was thirty yards ahead. Lisa could hear footsteps coming quickly behind her. She knew someone was sprinting to catch and pass her. She reached down deeper than she ever had, she raced toward the finish line and crossed the finish line a half a step ahead of the runner coming up on her. Lisa had no idea where she finished. She collapsed into Coach Kappa’s arms.
Coach Kappa said, “You ran a great race. You ran a great race.” Coach Kappa’s arm went around Lisa’s back holding her up. She walked slowly with Lisa until she was sure, Lisa was okay.
Lisa turned at looked at Coach Kappa, “How did I do Coach?”
Coach Kappa looked at her, “You did fine. You showed a lot grit, Lisa. You came in eighth. You ran third for the Jaguars. We placed three in the top ten. We have a good shot at winning because of you.