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An exotic landscape with pleasant underfoot ground and the freshest air I have ever breathed. That is a place where I can truly relax and unwind. When I am in the countryside, I feel as if I am the last person on earth. Yet through my mood of calm, a piercing unbearable feeling arises. A feeling deep within me overtakes the contentment and I am left with emptiness and sorrow.
After years of dreaming I have yet to fulfil my destiny of winning a major cross-country championship. I can feel my victory eagerly waiting to become a reality. Over the years, through an experience of mixed emotions, I have developed a deep passion for cross-country running. After giving years of dedication and determination to the sport it seems as though it has taken over my life. Everything in my life has come to relate to the subject of running. I wonder if my desire to run is playing with my thoughts of reality. Or is the world simply turning into a place where running is the only thing left? Will these thoughts ever stop swimming in my mind? What began as a hobby has grown into the most powerful force that directs my life. I am obsessed.
But why cross-country, you may ask me? Isn’t this a bit of an over-reaction? Thinking it through, going into the sport naturally talented, I realised that I enjoy running immensely.
The national cross-country championship is tomorrow. I lay in my bed frantic and sleepless because of the everlasting anxious thoughts of the race. I use my remaining time awake to plan my race strategy.
Everyone is strolling towards the start line. It is pouring down with rain. The muddy grass has turned into my worst enemy making the conditions a hundred times worst. I look around and all I can see is a swarm of young male runners not sure what is going to happen next. To be honest, I feel uncertain myself. As I do a three hundred and sixty degrees turn I can see that there must be about 400 competitors surrounding me. I slowly walk towards the start line stretching and trying to get rid of the remaining cobwebs between the muscle fibres of my legs. Standing beside me is Adam Hickey, a well known runner who is currently the best in England. I realise what I am up against. I look up at the enormous and endless hill. I cannot allow this to divert me from running the race. I am here now, blending in amongst the runners.
Deep breaths consume my body with adrenaline as I stand here. I feel a sudden rush of fear. I am to undergo the most challenging experience of my life. There is no turning back. I cannot disappoint my coach, family and friends. I cannot disappoint myself. Cross-country races usually set off with a traditional ”ready… steady…GO!” but what actually happens is that we hear a huge ‘BANG’. It shocks us all. For a moment we are temporarily startled. Then we realise that it is the bang of the gun. We sway into a half stride-half sprint start as spectators yell ”GO…GO…GO!”. It is only then that my mind realises that the race has started.
I shimmy my way persistently through the thick pack of runners as we struggle up the endless starting hill. Struggling to control my hefty breathing, after running up the enduring hill, a grey-bearded man who is wearing a bright fluorescent marshal bib gives us directions ”Turn right!” he shouts. Following the leading pack down the hill through the wet and sticky mud my feet slips and slides deep within the mud’s thickness. I have to brace myself or otherwise I will not last long in the race.
I try to tranquillize and regulate my breathing. Looking down to the bottom of the hill there appears to be a pond. As I approach the pond the brown muckiness of the mud almost completely covers and displaces the true colour of my legs, I gaze over to the pond. Ducks are bobbing up and down sleepily on the surface of the high rippled water caused by the smashing rain drops and powerful winds. For a moment I feel as though I am immersed into the beauty of the unsettled pond. How can these peaceful birds remain undisturbed by this unpleasant weather?
After a moment of admiring the beauty of nature, I snap and I find myself back in reality of the race. Another up-hill struggle emerges though it does not seem as long as the first hill but appears to be much steeper. As I look into the skies atmosphere, I inhale and exhale deeply whilst absorbing and relishing each cherished breath.
I can see breaks forming within the clouds allowing the suns radiance to pass through. Every time I look up into the sky I see that the breaks are widening more brightening the surrounding atmosphere which was once dark and dull. The sun is streaming into my eyes masking the troubles of life. I embrace destiny. The wind brushes along my cheek sending a slight chill over my body which washes away the sweat falling from my forehead. The musky old fallen brown leaves rustle under my feet with each step I take. My knees feel weak and my calves are starting to cause me severe discomfort. The pain is unbearable. It feels like knives are cutting into my calves stripping me of all my will power, yet I have to win, I have to struggle through.
The branches of passing trees slice through my arm, blood drips like broken tears onto the ruffled leaves. My pain is imprinted onto those leaves for life. The leaves are blowing and at the same time the branches crunch. I feel at one with the world and belong to the earth with every step I take.
Starring into the future, I can see my life flash before my eyes. This race has consumed all my energy, pain and emotion and the finishing line is in reach. I can hear the far distant cheers loudening with each fast stride I undertake. I now know that this is the time to run like I have never run before. My pace quickens and I can see the runners catching up behind me. My heart is pounding fast against my chest, each palpitation rushing through my body whilst blood rushes from my head to the tip of my fingers. Then to my horror I feel a pain, like a bolt of thunder overshadowing my calf. This ache is a familiar feeling I have come to understand and accept as all runners go through the same process from time to time, I have pulled a muscle. My body comes to a halt as my leg feels engrossed by this excruciating pain.
As I look behind I can see Adam literally meters from my side. I watch in discontent as my world crumbles around me. He has overtaken me, making me doubt my ability as a runner, and the other runners are not far behind. I have to release this feeling of dwelling in my own pity. I will not let this slight functional glitch let me lose faith of my self and my capability to win this race. I have come so far and would have to ignore the pain. My brain processes the message to the nervous system that I will have to catch up with Adam. Suddenly I regain all movement in my legs. With each swinging movement of my arms and fast stomp of my feet I was soon running side by side next to Adam.
We look into one another’s face and sweat falls like teardrops onto the ground. His face conveys annoyance and I can see that this will be a battle between our manly pride and victory. These last few moments will determine my whole future, with that thought I swiftly pass Adam and was seconds away from the finishing line. I have now run through the ribbon and have come first as the victorious winner. My life long ambition has come true, I can hear the roars from the applauding crowd and can see the happiness beam through my loved ones faces. I am now the best in England.
The experience had been an emotional battle, a journey draining both body and mind. I contemplated upon my future as a runner throughout the race, constantly questioning whether I had what it takes to become a world class athlete. I had to win, I had to prove myself. Never would I have thought such obstacles would arise throughout the race. However, I Badruddin Manassib, had the power and stamina to overcome these trials and tribulations throughout this intense twenty three minutes and thirty four seconds. This day will resound in my mind forever. My victory will lead the path to a future as a professional runner. This race is one step of many that I will need to take in order to become an Olympic champion one day. My next step is the ‘Junior World cross-country Championship’, here I come! Winning has given me the confidence to believe in my ability to achieve my goal. Without my dream, I would never have had the immense determination that drove me to succeed.