The Heart of a True Runner

Tanis Lorring, Staff Editor


A lone runner bursts through the underbrush. Her hair is wild enough to match her eyes. Perspiration beads every pore of her body. Her green-and-gold uniform stands out against the yellows and browns of the chilly fall day. She catches sight of the runners in front of her and gently surges. Her chest heaves; oxygen is now a rare and valuable thing. Her feet remain steady, navigating the course expertly, but her legs shake with the weight of her race. Soon, the girl catches up with the group in front, but it costs her. Oxygen debt takes over, her mind becomes fuzzy and her vision blurs. Through it all, her feet never stop pounding the hard-packed ground.

The group turns a corner, a few girls surge, and a monster rises up before them. This is the dreaded hill, the point where most runners want to quit. Deep breath. Time to conquer. Quick feet. Big arms. The uphill seems endless, made for only the toughest runners. Her legs scream for a reprieve from this torture. Her chest throbs and her hips refuse to move. Even though the agony seems overwhelming, the worst pain isn’t physical. Her mind whispers sweet lies that she isn’t good enough; she could never make the time; it’s not worth it, just give up. People roar at her from all sides, urging her onward. The screams echo in her mind, as if in a tunnel. They make her head throb and her stomach queasy. She moves faster – if only to be rid of such chaos.

She reaches the crest of the hill and….finally: the 4K – it’s all downhill from here. Her legs have become Jell-O; as she speeds downhill, she loses sight of everything but the trail in front of her. She surges, desperately trying to shake the group she’s tied down to. But every time she speeds up, they remain a few steps behind her. She wants to cry with frustration; there’s no hope of ever leaving them behind.

She reaches the 400 meter mark, and her coach is not five feet from her. He barks out times, “You’re at 21:17! Let’s run sub-22!” She sees herself collapsing, falling down right there, but she shuts the image out of her mind. She must continue, if not for herself then for her team and her coaches.

Her feet hit the rubber track, and everything changes. Her vision narrows until there is nothing more than her and the finish line. The incessant screams of the spectators are no more; everything blurs. Suddenly, her chest opens, allowing for a single gasp of clear air before ploughing forward. Blood rushes through her head, overpowering the shouts, and her legs turn. Faster than she’s ever run before, she sprints for the end, her legs and lungs numb. The girl breaks free from the group, showing the world what a real runner is. From the sides, the spectators witness the heart of a true runner. She is utterly free, fully joyful, reveling in the pain of this frozen moment. She crosses the finish line, every cell heaving. Her team crashes around her, supporting her, congratulating her, reassuring her. There isn’t an ounce of disappointment in their eyes, only simple joy.

There was no PR, no first place trophy, but she was perfectly content. She had supported her team to the best of her ability, and they had done the same for her. She had a team who loved her unconditionally, and who could push her past her limit. They built her up from the ashes, they made her stronger than before. Her team changed her life, her heart, something no trophy could’ve done.