My first season of cross country was rife with epiphanies. I discovered I was a runner. I learned I had a potent weapon in a finishing kick. I also fell in love with running.
Thanksgiving was rapidly approaching. With its arrival came the annual 'Gobble Wobble' race. I had run it the previous year when I was a pretender.
I had managed to place 20th. It was a respectable result given my relative inexperience and lack of training. But, I was a runner now. I was a contender.
I was hungry for more. I wasn't out for a respectable finish. I was out to win it all.
There was nothing at stake at this race. There was no prize for whoever finished first. There were no real bragging rights associated with winning the Gobble Wobble.
I had accomplished many things my first season of cross country. But, winning a race had not been one of these things.
As a former soccer player, scoring a goal was an incredible rush of adrenaline and ecstasy. I loved running, but I had yet to find something analogous with running. I thought winning might provide what I was looking for.
I had no real reason to believe I could win. I had no idea who was toeing the line that day. I'd only really had a few months of training under my belt.
But, I wanted to win. I wanted to find out if I could. I believed I could.
The gun fired and countless surged out in front of me. I relaxed and let them go. If I wanted to win, I had to run my race.
Within half a mile, many of them started fading. I moved up from 20th to 15th position. There were still many in front of me, but there were many miles to go.
I breathed deeply. I did my best to stay relaxed. I was counting on my finishing kick to win this.
As long as I continued to gradually make my way towards the front, I had a shot. If I simply hung around, I could wear the field down. I didn't know who was in front of me, but I believed I could take anyone.
I moved up a few more spots and found myself within striking distance of the lead pack. I could see them off in the distance. There were three of them.
I honed in on their turnover and tried to pull them in. Slowly, inexorably they started to get closer. I could see no one in front of them.
We approached the most daunting hill of the race and I was nearly on their heels. To pass them going uphill would be a devastating blow. I made my move.
They gasped as I glided past them. I betrayed none of the fatigue I was feeling. I did my best to maintain a poker face. Behind the facade, I was running on fumes.
I crested the hill and flew down the other side. My legs churned furiously trying to put distance between myself and those behind me. I could hear them.
A half a mile was all that stood between me and the finish line. Victory was nearly mine. Fear induced adrenaline kept the wheels turning. They weren't letting up, but neither was I.
The finish line approached. I threw my head back and took a deep breath. It was time to finish this.
I let it all hang out. I unleashed my kick. As close as they were, I knew they had little chance of passing me if I could just keep it together for a few more seconds.
I careened across the finish line. I held them off. I had pulled it off. I bent over and gasped.
I caught my breath and lifted my head. A woman handed me a ribbon. It said '2nd place'. I had fallen one place shy of victory.
The rush of adrenaline and ecstasy I sought would have to wait a bit longer. But, I had come closer to victory than I ever had before. I had reason to believe.
It wasn't a question of if I would win a race, but win. I had nearly pulled it off by just believing I could. I wasn't going to stop believing now.
I run because I believe....