A Race I'd Never Win
I also ran extra miles after each meet and logged lots of miles on the weekends. The oppressive September sun made me nauseated, dizzy and weak. Sweat poured down my forehead and cheeks, but the burning sting in my eyes and the salty taste in my mouth didn't deter me. Instead, I was motivated to push myself to the limit day after day, envisioning the "Way to go, Christy!" cheers and the high-fives I'd get from my teammates.
Pushing Through the Pain
Envisioning acceptance could only take me so far, though. I asked God for strength to continue.
A few weeks later, I started to improve, but before Matthew had a chance to witness my improved performance in a race, my energy began to wane.
"My feet feel like lead," I told my mom one evening. "Bogey keeps telling me to push through it and pick up the pace, but it's hard."
Mom patted my aching back and then commented on my battered, blistered body.
"Honey, you look exhausted. You don't even seem to enjoy running anymore. Why don't you ease up a bit?"
"Ease up?" I shrieked. "My teammates are already wondering why I'm sliding. I'm not easing up."
And I didn't. In fact, I pushed harder.
After one particularly excruciating practice, Ally asked why I nearly killed myself every day.
"You work harder than anyone, even Tammy and Matthew. Why is that?"
"Because I want the A team to know I'm a good runner. I want them to like me. But all that hinges on my performance, and lately, I've been running terribly."
"You're just in a slump. And besides, who cares what they think? They're stuck on themselves anyway," Ally said.
She had a point. Most of the A team was fairly conceited. But knowing that didn't stop me from wanting their acceptance.
The weeks rolled by, and I slid further into my "slump." Then, during an October meet, I thought things might be looking up.
After running a horrible first mile, my tired heart skipped a beat when I saw a familiar-looking silhouette in the distance; it was Matthew. He had never cheered for me, and a feeling of elation swept over me at the thought of his finally inviting me into his world.
Feeling for the first time like part of the team, I mustered every bit of my untapped energy and sprinted forward. When I reached Matthew, however, my illusion was shattered. He didn't applaud or even smile. He just stared at me blankly before turning and walking away.
I felt like I'd been kicked in the chest. Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that my months of hard work didn't mean a thing to Matthew. If I wanted to win his acceptance, I'd have to win the race. And that just wasn't going to happen. Not today. Not this season. Perhaps not ever.
By November, I was a complete physical mess. I soon learned that I had mononucleosis. Forced to drop out for the rest of the season, I sank into despair. My ego was bruised because I'd never gotten to "prove" myself to my teammates. Plus, they didn't seem to care about my health. During my recuperation, Ally was the only one who visited me.