By Seb Danson
I arose from a good night’s sleep, filled with nervousness and excitement. It was race day. I was competing in the 2017 CISAA championships, and my event was the 400m dash. The 400m dash was comprised of two different races: the Preliminaries, and if I qualified, the Finals. If the time of my preliminary race was one of the top 8 overall, I would advance to the finals. After months and months of intense training, I was well prepared for this race.
It was 7:15 AM. I was running in the Preliminaries at 9:55 AM. I put on my track clothes, brushed my teeth, and headed downstairs to eat breakfast. I had my favorite pre-race meal: oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, and bananas. My nerves made it hard to eat breakfast, but I did. Then I packed up my gear: my track spikes, headphones, extra clothes and socks, and filled my water bottle. It was time to head to the track.
After a long drive, my mom and I arrived at the Oshawa Civic Recreation Stadium. The weather was beautiful. The sun shone down brightly, making me feel warm and pleasant. I found Mr. Fitz, who handed me my bib number and told me that the meet was running on time. I checked the clock, it was 9:00 AM and time to warm up. I went through my regular warm up routine, which started off with a 2km jog, followed by various dynamic drills and exercises, and finally 7 strides (50-100m sprints). Upon finishing my warm-up, a booming voice announced, “Junior Boys 400m, please check in.” I walked over to the marshaling area and checked in. A man signaled for me to go onto the track. It was race time.
I had been calm during the warm-up, but suddenly, I was very nervous. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach; I had starving bats, trying to burst through my stomach. Nonetheless, I had no option but to walk onto the track and begin setting my starting blocks. Despite my nervousness, I felt somewhat confident. I knew I was one of the best runners in the race and should not have to expend a great deal of effort to advance to the finals. I was placed in lane 7, which is one of my least favorite lanes due to the fact that there are no competitors ahead of me to chase after. I finished setting my blocks and scoured my competition. Everyone looked slow with oversized singlets, no running spikes, and loose and long shorts. All except for one runner. This dark skinned giant looked like Usain Bolt. He must have been 6’2, with muscles bulging out of his singlet, and confidence seeping out of his smirk. I did not have long to admire his athletic figure, as a loud voice announced: “Runners! Stand behind your blocks!”
I followed instructions and stood behind my blocks. A few seconds later, the same voice said, “Runners take your mark!”
I stepped over my blocks, jumped a few times, and settled into my blocks. The Marshall yelled, “Set!”
I rose into my starting position and awaited the starter’s pistol shot. “Bang!”
Once the race started, my nerves evaporated and my instincts took over. I rocketed out of the blocks like a cannon ball, propelling myself forward as fast as I could. I quickly reached my desired speed, and continued to maintain it. My race plan was to take the first 200m out hard, to gain a significant lead, and then to cruise the last 200m to save my energy for the Finals.
Like many of my races, things did not go according to plan. I ran the first 200m hard as planned; however, there was another runner rapidly catching up to me. Sure enough, it was the Phenome, each of his steps powering him closer and closer to me. At around 250m, he overtook me and continued to expand his lead. By the 300m mark, he was 10m ahead of me. I knew I had to do something. Legs still filled with energy, I picked up the pace and started sprinting, putting everything I had into each step. It was working, I was started to gain on him. The only problem was I was running out of real estate. There was only 30m left and he still had a 5m lead. Still, I continued to shrink the lead. 10m left, I could reach out and touch him, 5m left, I was right there, I pushed as hard as I could, but it was not enough. I crossed the finish line inches behind the winner. His time turned out to be 53.78 and mine was 53.80. I had lost by two-tenths of a second. I was shattered. Going into the race, I felt that I was very capable of winning. Getting beaten really destroyed my spirit and expending a great deal of energy left me empty and tired. Despite losing the race, I managed to come second overall and secured myself a spot in the Finals. I knew the finals were going to be very close and a battle to the very end. I also knew there could only be one winner, and it was going to be me.
Once I had sufficiently recovered my breath, I began to cool down and stretch so my muscles would be prepared for my upcoming race at 2:55 PM. The next few hours were very relaxed. My mom drove me to the mall to avoid the blazing sun and to eat lunch. I ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich and continuously drank water to stay hydrated. Before long, it was time to return to the track. We drove back to the track and for the second time that day, I began my warm up. During my warm up, I felt surprisingly rejuvenated. My muscles did not seem to be fatigued and I felt ready to race. When the junior boys 400m Final was called, I walked over to the marshaling area and checked in. I discovered that the boy who had beaten me was named Annointing Osawe. I was in lane six, and he was in lane three. My race plan was similar to my one in the first race. Knowing that Annointing liked to start off the race very fast, I decided to also go out extremely fast, to not be at a disadvantage with 100m to go. I had channeled my disappointment into anger and motivation and was ready to win.
“Junior Boys 400m step onto the track.”
Like every race, I ran over to my lane and set my blocks. Once placed exactly to my liking, I stood behind my blocks and awaited the next command. I managed to steal a glance at Annointing. He looked confident and intimidating. The nervousness that I normally felt was replaced with anger and determination.
“Runners take your marks.”
I did my usual jumps and settled into my blocks.
My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest and my body was enveloped in a wave of adrenaline. I rose to my starting position.
I exploded out of the blocks, taking fast and powerful strides. Before I knew it, I had passed the runner in lane 7, and shortly after, I overtook the runner in lane 8. I stormed down the back stretch running very hard. 200m into the race I was in the lead. I propelled around the final turn feeling optimistic. 250m into the race, my optimism evaporated as I was being overtaken by Annointing. I did my best to speed up, but Annointing’s lead was increasing. We came into the final stretch and I was behind by 5m. It was now or never. I had to make a move. Legs aching, lungs screaming, I managed to find another gear. I began to catch up. With 50m to go, we were neck and neck. My legs felt like bricks, and my mind was crying out for me to stop. I couldn’t stop, I had come too far and sacrificed too much to lose. I used my last ounces of energy and put everything I had into the last few seconds. 10m to go, I passed Annointing and regained the lead. Body and mind numb, I crossed the finish line and collapsed. I had won! I had overcome the adversity of losing. I was the champion!
I’m glad that I didn’t let the disappointment of the first race deflate me. In the last 100m of that race, I learned more about myself and about life than I ever have before. I learned that perseverance and believing in yourself will lead to success, and if you do not succeed the first time, do not give up. I appreciate more than ever that each race is another opportunity to prove myself and, in turn, to be challenged by others.
The city finals are next week. I’m ready for the challenge.