Toeing the start line of the 1500 meter race that morning were several of my rivals. One of which being, the recent winner who had been the Ivan Drago to my Rocky for the past month and half. Etched in my mind during several training runs, ever pushing me to go faster was the silhouette of this unknown runner who was always just a few steps ahead of me. At our last encounter he left me in his wake finishing about 25 seconds ahead of me. Since then, I had been training as hard as I could to be able to come back and beat this guy. I drastically altered my training schedule; steadily training 6 days a week and adding in several different workouts. Tempo sessions, aerobic runs, fartlek runs, long runs, easy jog days, cross training. I greatly reduced the amount of junk food I ate, began studying all sorts of different race tactics, and learned all I could from watching professional runners. My goal was to run the best possible race I could and now the day had finally come. It was time to prove to myself that I could be beaten, set a goal, and then come back stronger.
There at the start line, I had no idea what the other runners were thinking. What experiences had they been through to get there? Was I just one of many runners who all felt that they had trained to the best of their abilities, and gone through the same thing? It didn’t matter. All that mattered in my mind was that I was going to outrun these guys and win this race. I made my way to the starting line where the stern faced race official directed everyone to their starting positions. Finally. The moment we have all prepared for. He announced the ominous yet thrilling two phrase countdown that preludes the starting gun; Runners, take your mark…get set…BLAM! We were off! The 1500 meters begins on a straightaway and there are several different strategies that can be implemented. I employed a common, yet effective strategy. Using the first 100 meters to get off to a fast start and trying to establish a good position before hitting the first curve.
From there a runner can either sit in with the pack (if there is one), be a front runner (if you can), or tag on the back and hang on for dear life. That day the pack set off at a blisteringly painful pace that I wasn’t keen on matching. Looking around, I knew that if my training and experience had taught me anything, it’s that these guys could not hold out forever at this pace. I decided to sit back, trust my instincts, and run a steadier pace for the first few laps. With about 800 meters to go I began to take stock. Overall, I felt pretty comfortable and knew that I had a lot of gas left in my tank. Position wise; I was pretty far back. 20 seconds or more off of the leader. This meant I was about 100 meters away from the lead runner who was running with all his might towards the finish. If I was going to win I knew I had some serious ground to cover and several runners to pass.
With 600 meters to go I began to pick up the pace. Over the next 200 meters I made little progress. I soon realized that my current speed wasn’t going to cut it and that I needed more speed. At 400 meters to go the bell rang out for the final lap. With that bell I flipped a switch, knowing that if I wanted to win I would have to give it my all. I launched into an all-out sprint! With my adrenaline pumping at maximum and my arms swinging like a madman I began to immediately close the distance to the leaders. Fifth place, fourth, third, second… Then there was only one. That same person who had beaten me only a month earlier. The guy who had driven my need to train my hardest and give it my absolute all. Making my way around that last curve I summoned every ounce of strength I could. Then and there I felt weightless. I was gliding. I not only met my competitor in an all out sprint to the finish, I pulled past him and continued to pull away all the way to the finish. I had done it! I won the race and set a new personal best at four minutes and seventeen seconds.
As each runner came in after me I made sure to shake their hands and tell them good job doing my best to give each competitor the respect they deserved. Walking back to the athletes section my Dad greeted me with open arms wearing a grin from ear to ear. He was so proud of the race I ran and thought it was the coolest thing in the world to see his son sprint past everyone in the last 45 seconds of the race! I was super pleased with myself as well and have always looked on this race as my personal favorite. Not because it was my best performance ever but because of the whole experience, the early defeat, the tough training, and then being able to execute the plan on race day. This experience taught me that training and hard work can pay off and has helped me in all aspects of my life.