So there I was, the last leg of the relay team, just about to blow the times we previously set out of the water. I can see the third sprinter coming around the turn. My heart started to race. The adrenaline was flowing freely through my veins. I was so ready to have the fastest time of my life in the 4×100 relay.  My teammates built a substantial lead. We were right where we needed to be, now all I needed to do was bring us home. Around the turn she came. I started to move, proper form, hand out and wide open, ready to receive the baton. Clean pass, no contact, I was off. I felt great. I could see out of the corner of my eye the rest of my team coming across the field screaming, jumping up and down as they were running. This was in the bag. We would take the gold medal. And right then, as if the hundreds of fans surrounding the track could have heard as loudly as I did, A gun shot. Right to my groin. Pop. Pop. My right leg felt like it was five meters behind me, dragging along, trying to keep up. After about three more steps the pain took over and I started to hobble. I was three quarters of the way there. But the finish line could have been a mile away for all I knew. The pain was unreal. I heard the gasps around me. All in a few steps. Pain. Noise. Gasps. I was going down. But not before I threw my body over the line.

I just. Have. To. Get. There.

It was the only thought that consumed my mind as I watched the team to the right of me fly by me, then the left. Just need to finish. If we don’t finish, we don’t move on.

Finish. The. Damn. Race.

It’s all I could muster up. I saw the trainer and coaches all pile around the finish line as I came hurdling across in such a non-graceful fashion, literally collapsing as I did. Groin muscle. Need I say more?

That would be the last time I ran track.

I think of that moment in eighth grade when I could fly. I was fast. I was strong. I was voted by my peers in our yearbook that year as most athletic girl. But I was hiding. Most people knew of me as the athlete. I managed to get good grades, took accelerated classes, honors and was in the gifted and talented program in the school system my whole life. But did they really know ME? Did I, for that matter? Really know ME? WOW, there was so much more. I was an insecure kid. Quiet, shy, afraid I wouldn’t fit in. Funny, I think we all have moments of that awkward eighth grader in our lives at some point, even when we are 37. Perhaps even when we are 67.

However, what I have found is so much better than that scared, imperfect little kid.  Every day we stretch ourselves, every day we push our limits, every day we find new ways to be ourselves. We thrive. In so many ways, so many opportunities, we get better. And we realize quickly that regardless of what we accomplish, we are that much wiser, that much older and that much more able to understand each other. And the truth is, that is what’s most important anyway. That quiet scared kid… the one who everyone thought was confident all her life? Yeah, she’s still here every once in a while. I love that though. I will never forget where I came from. But for where I am going?
Let’s just say I’m closer today than yesterday.

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