We stand in our box, muscles flexed at the ready. I keep my eyes forward, focused on the narrowed path at the end of the field. Instead of the gun, I hear a voice next to me say go. We are moving forward in one fluid motion, sprinting part of the way down the field. It’s called a stride. We do them before a race to practice the start, keep our heart rates elevated, and begin our team huddle.
We’ve ran about the right distance, and someone starts to slow down. Like dominoes, we all follow suit. We get in a circle, and wrap our arms around one another. The adrenaline is pumping through my body. I’m nervous, excited, and panicked all at the same time. The contact reminds me that we are all here together. I begin to take deep breaths through my nose.
Jayme speaks first. My eyes are on her. As she speaks, they drift down to my red spikes. I’m doing my best to soak in her words of encouragement. She reminds us to have fun and just race; I’m reminded not to take myself too seriously.
Becca picks up after a brief silence. She reminds us of our home course and that long, steep hill. These hills are nothing. We let out a few nervous laughs. My eyes are still on my shoes. I feel the butterflies fluttering against the walls of my stomach.
I go last. This year was the first year that I was brave enough to ask to pray. When I did, my heart was hammering. In the half a second it took for an answer, I had rehearsed how to handle the rejection. Instead, I was left wondering why I hadn’t asked sooner.
We bow our heads. There are 30 teams striding around us. There are around 400 bodies standing by the starting line, and yet everything is still. We might as well be the only team on the field. I feel words of comfort pour from my mouth. I don’t know if the team feels the same way, but I feel peace begin to slowly wrap around me. God is with me at the start of the race, in the middle of the race, and at the end of the race. I can see that. I can feel His presence. I can feel the promises of love and guidance. I make some promises in return. I promise to pour myself out for him in this race, just as he poured himself out for me.
I take a slow deep breath. My nerves are gone. The butterflies have settled.