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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Cross country beginner follows footsteps of upperclassmen

Xiao_Kelly1428
To be honest, my first impression of cross country when I joined the sport this year was quite negative. On the very first day, I unwisely chose  to practice with the varsity group, completely clueless as to my impending doom. The captains led us on a “Marshall Clark,” a 3-mile course that eventually looped back to the school.
I spent that run in pain, with aching legs, a parched mouth and raspy breathing. The sun glared mercilessly down at us and sweat poured down my face as I ran seemingly without end. The gap between me and the girls ahead began widening, and before I knew it, the group had morphed into dots in the distance. The only times I managed to catch up were when they deliberately stopped and had to wait for me. 
About halfway through the run, when I had finally caught up, junior Carolyn Qi joked “Look, a stop sign. I think we should take a break,” to which junior Michelle Luo responded with great conviction, “Stop signs are only for cars! No walking!” It was then that I realized, with a pit of dread pooling in my stomach, that walking was not an option.
By the end of the tortuous run, only one coherent thought resounded in my head: It was going to be one extremely painful season for me. Yet at the same time, I could not help but be inspired by Qi and Luo’s relentless motivation during the run.
I could not have foreseen that several upperclassmen would soon influence me greatly, changing the way I viewed running. Looking back, their enthusiasm must have overflowed and spilled over to me. If I had to record some of my experiences with them in one lab report, it would read as follows:
Hypothesis: I am going to despise cross country and experience excruciating pain in each practice.
Trial 1
Prediction: The senior with the knee braces, Casey Takahashi, appears to be injured. Even though she is  a captain, she will most likely run slower than the rest of the group. I mean, she’s injured, right?
Results: I have been utterly humbled. About one-fourth of the way into the Donkey Hill run, a one-mile hilly loop, Takahashi effortlessly passed me and continued to run at an incredible pace, knee braces and all. Also, during the core workouts, the number of minutes she was able to hold a plank made me doubt her validity as a human. 
Trial 2
Prediction: The girl who told us not to walk, Luo, is not serious about forcing us to run. Surely it’s just a case of all bark and no bite. 
Results: My resolve weakened, and I took a self-granted walking break on the Canyon View run, a tough 4-mile course with a steep hill. The consequences? An eternal stamp of shame has been branded onto my skull. Not to mention that Luo’s eyes blazing with fury when I confessed to my crime will haunt my dreams for the rest of the season. Despite this setback, I now know to set the standards for practices higher and to challenge myself. 
Trial 3 
Prediction: No one in this world is capable of making me view running in a positive light.
Results: Junior Deepti Kannan has been spending a lot of time gushing to me about the wonders of running. For example, she called running “therapeutic” and meets “exhilarating.” I must say, her passion for the sport is slightly contagious; while listening, I dreamily envisioned myself sprinting up a hill without stopping. If cross country ever needed to find a salesperson, Kannan would be the one I would hire.
Conclusion: There is a comfort to running, a steady rhythm that transports my mind elsewhere. It is escapism and exercise at its finest. It needs only two things: mental willpower and dedication towards improvement. 
And so, my views of cross country were reborn. 
After this transition, I aspired to become just like the upperclassmen, who were extremely dedicated. I marveled over how they pushed themselves to the limit with each run, and I felt inspired to do so myself.
From then on, whenever Luo yelled at us to keep on going during core workouts, I complied, embracing the challenge. Whenever we raced up a grueling hill, I willed myself to maintain my pace.  I adopted an endure-all attitude like the others and aimed to one day reach varsity, a lofty goal for me. 
And now? I actually like running. Sure, it’s still painful, but there is something alluring about the way the steady beat of footsteps on concrete feels. And running in a pack of equally enthusiastic girls trumps any other addictive activity. The breeze, the view from up high, it all adds on to the exhilaration. However, I could never have come so far without the upperclassmen, who motivated me to run, smile and never give up the fight. 
 
 
 
 

 

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