Pushing Past the Pain

By: Evette Massey

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My mind was restless as I was waiting for the sound of the gun to start the race.  I noticed how perfect the weather was for running.  It was cool out, not warm, but not cold either.  The ground was still slightly wet from the leftover morning dew and the air was filled with the aroma of freshly cut green grass.  It was definitely track season.  I had done every stretch I could think of to help relieve the pain radiating from my left ankle, but nothing seemed to be working.  With only moments before my last race in the Class 3A Regional Track Meet, I wasn’t focusing on winning; I was focused on just finishing the two-mile.  My coach didn’t seem too concerned about my ankle, so I wrapped it and tried to forget about the pain.  This was my race of a lifetime and I was not about to let some baby kitten pain stop me.

The “Pop” of the starting gun echoed around the football stadium as I snapped back into reality and took off.  The first lap went by and I moved from 9th to 5th place.  In the second lap, I moved from 5th to 3rd place, and that’s where I stayed until the end of the first mile.  I barely even noticed how much my ankle hurt during that first mile due to all the adrenaline pumping through my body.  But once I started on the second mile my ankle took a turn for the worse; my baby kitten pain grew and was now a teenage lion.

Thudding footfalls of the runner in front of me and the huffing from the runner behind me filled my mind.  I knew as long as I focused on those two things I could ignore the cries for help coming from my ankle.  Turns out my ankle is just as hard-headed and stubborn as my mind is; no sooner had I started on my sixth lap, than most excruciating pain I had ever experienced pulsed from my ankle, down my foot, back through my ankle, and up my leg.  My teenage lion was now fully grown.  I had never experienced such real pain before, that I almost collapsed; my ankle had finally given out on me. 

I tried to keep up my calm façade, but my coaches saw that one moment of weakness I let through.  As I limply ran past them, they told me to pull out of the race, but I had too much self respect to not finish.  I had never dropped out of a race, and I surely wasn’t going to start now just because my ankle had had enough.  I knew I was strong enough to finish, or at least I hoped I was.   I only had the remainder of the sixth and all of the seventh and eighth laps left, and I was going to run them, even if I came in last. 

I dropped from 3rd to 4th place as my teammate passed me with caution and 4th to 9th in the seventh lap.  Beginning of the eighth lap, I was yelling at myself.  I told myself I could do better and that if I didn’t do better, then I was going to let myself down.  I was continuously encouraging and yelling at myself to forget about the pain because I knew how much this race meant to me. 

Between all the internal noise coming from me and the external noise coming from my teammates and coaches cheering me on, I forgot about my ankle for that last lap.  I pushed through the surging pain and stepped my performance up.  I only had 200 meters left in the 2 mile and I had finally gotten my second wind.  I knew I wasn’t going to come in last because there were about seven other exhausted people behind me, a person whose ankle had given out on her at the beginning of the second mile.  I was already so proud of myself for not falling that far behind, and I really wanted to finish in a higher position.

 The last 100 meters of the 2 mile was the most crucial part for me; I could finally see the finish line that would put an end to my pain and misery.  I focused solely on that and the encouraging cheers from my supporters and the next thing I knew, I was in 8th place. 

Just 50 meters to go and I passed another competitor, placing myself in 7th.  I could again hear the thudding footfalls of the runner in front of me and the huffing of the runner behind me, but I couldn’t hear any cries for help coming from my ankle.  With those two glorious sounds occupying my attention, I focused on them and finally finished my race, coming in 7th place. 

The absence of pain lasted fifteen seconds after crossing the finish line.  By then, my ankle was years past exhaustion and ready for the retirement home.  As I collapsed, I couldn’t help but feel prouder than Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, when women were given the right to vote, for not giving up when my coaches told me to.  As I hit the still slightly wet, freshly cut grass on the football field, I was euphoric.  I didn’t even care that I had to be carried off of the track.  I had accomplished what others didn’t think I could do.  I ended up on crutches and in a walking boot for the next two months, but that’s the small price I paid for those everlasting memories and feelings of hard work, determination, and sheer stubbornness.  I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for that race, for it taught me to believe in myself.

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