“Good luck! Race hard, not only for yourself but for all of us and God’s glory,” I whispered to my teammates as we waited for the gun to go off to start the race. I smiled, having gone through every emotion in the past 24 hours, as I positioned myself on that starting line. I was proud of being the captain of such special people and leading my homeschool collective’s first girls varsity team to the state cross-country meet. Since middle school, I’d had two goals: race at the state cross-country meet and be team captain, and I accomplished those. My time as a competitive athlete has influenced how I set goals that give direction and add value to my life.
Once I set my mind to something, I will do everything to complete it. With racing at state in the back of my mind, I stayed committed in and out of the cross-country season. Each summer, I dedicated myself to the short-term goal of running 250 miles. Rising with the sun, I would run and observe the creatures starting their days. However tired and sore I was, my perseverance would not let me back down. I would return home dripping in sweat and dreaming of a cold shower. All my hard work paid off. I came into the season strong with more to give. My love for running flourished, which would power me through the tougher times.
Commonly, girls run faster when they’re younger because they do not have a fully developed body. This seemed true for me in 10th grade, when my times stagnated. Without sufficient strength, I started altering my running form, and developed sharp pain in my hip and shins. I waited too long to seek my coaches’ guidance, which led to a longer recovery and time spent watching my teammates train without me. Looking back, I recognized that I put my goals before my health. Refusing defeat, I changed my attitude and short-term goals. I learned that it is not a failure to step back from a goal and reevaluate.
Through the years, running has taught me how to make goals that are specific and measurable, and persevere to complete them. I became team captain my junior year. Honored, I strove to give back to the team. As a varsity squad, we became determined to qualify for state. My motivation became to race faster for my teammates, not just for myself. Exhausted as I crossed the finish line of the decisive race, I was elated knowing I had given everything for my friends and our goal. We knew we would not win first place, but we were proud to grab the second and last qualifying spot.
I felt accomplished and proud of myself for having followed through with a goal I had made five years ago, even through the rough middle bits. While we did not win state, we focused on enjoying the moment and the experience of being there. Through the process of achieving my dreams, I have learned how to set smart goals, work through rough patches and celebrate the process.
I have started to contemplate and look forward to creating new goals for college. I am excited to be challenged academically and see who I will become. As I start college, I will be continuing the greatest goal of my life: becoming the person God created me to be. I realize there will be many ups and downs, but running has taught me how to persevere through them. I know I will need to surround myself with good people who hold my values and will support me.