Dear Michael and Caroline,
I went to track practice in afternoons after school.
We would do different drills, cover different distances at different paces, practicing fast starts and fast finishes, doing the 100-yard dash, the 220, the 440, the half-mile, the mile, the two-mile.
Every Friday came the drill I found toughest of all, one 440-yard-run after another, either six or seven in a row, all with only a minute to rest in between. One day, exhausted to the point of nausea, panting myself breathless, I bent over under the stands, my stomach in violent upheaval, and puked my guts out.
Sometimes, such as then, I felt like quitting the team.
But soon I discovered myself running faster, feeling stronger, breathing better, and that kept me going. I still ran slower than anyone on the team, and clearly I was never going to be much good, much less win or place in any meets.
But I practiced in the offseason, timing myself with a stopwatch as I ran around the block surrounding our house, probably equal to a quarter-mile track. And the improvement I saw in myself that first track season, and the gladiatorial spirit I felt awakening in me, proved to be motivation enough, and I returned the next year.
The coach of the track team never asked me to run in the meets, and I never asked him to let me, so any time our milers went up against those from another town, I watched, wishing I were good enough to participate, knowing full well I might never be.
Week after week I practiced with the team, practiced pretty hard, too, and week after week I watched from the field as my colleagues went head to head against the local competition on the track. I felt so left out, so much a failure.
Then came the last track event of the season in my senior year, and I knew it was now or never, and so I asked the track coach to let me run in the mile.
P.S. – See part 3 tomorrow.