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Just keep running

To say I was a sporty person would be like saying blood isn’t red, a lie, and a very big one at that. Cross-country had been a longstanding Taibah competition and since I hadn’t participated in any sports for my house and had a mediocre love for going on long walks (not runs but walks) I signed up on the Muteesa girls’ cross-country team.

It was definitely unexpected, and other than I one time I walked around the school the day before, was unprepared. After I had changed into my house kit, I quickly gathered together with the other girls for a little pep talk from our house captains and were led to the track that we were going to run while excited enthusiastic chants pushed us to our fates. Only after the whistle blew, after I took those first few steps on the hard rocky ground in the harsh punishing glare of the afternoon sun did I realise that this wasn’t going to be as easy as eating pie.

I had gone a good distance now and was running at a good pace, my body casually getting used to the very frequent exasperated breaths and even my unusual amount of body movement. We had passed around the Cambridge block with encouraging shouts from the teachers lined at multiple points of the track and then we were out of the gate and into the primary field. That’s when it hit me that I had no idea how long 3km was, I thought I did but I actually had no clue. So, I started walking, but the bad thing about walking (and I had been warned about it) was that it feels so good, as addictive as a chug of water on a hot day, and once you start you can’t go back. I walked, no I trudged and trudged, and then I run a little and then trudged again. I passed people, people passed me, and it was a very hopeless continuous cycle. But just then, I saw the Taibah gate, the end to this never-ending pain just a few metres from me. I forgot all about the pleasure of walking and raced down the hill to my freedom. Except, all that glitters isn’t gold, and right when it was all going to be done, the security guard pointed up and tells us, “Go back and use the diversion route.” Hearing those words just made my spirit deflate.

There was a bit of confusion at that point, the guard telling us to use the diversion and the teacher sent us back down, it was a bit unnerving, to be honest, but we ended up going down the hill, through the new parking area and guess what, up another hill. That was it, I was never making it out of this, I was going to be buried right here all in the name of team spirit. So, I got back into my comfort zone and walked. Right then, when the hill didn’t seem to get done when the climbing seemed unrelenting, I heard the cheering of students from a distance that brought me back to the reality that I was at the church right outside the school field. So, as if the fuel to my fire, I ran. Have you ever felt your entire body burn, and flare up more with each breath you breathe, with each step you take? Well, every step up that hill felt like that. I ran with all the energy I had left in my withered body and raced up the top of that hill. I reached to top, took a turn onto the first piece of flat ground in a long while, and right there surrounded by a bunch of teachers stood the actual end to my agony. I ran and ran, and ran with a speed that came from I don’t even know where and crossed the invisible finish line to grab my position card. After that, as if right on cue, my legs gave up on me and I fell into the soft unmoving earth.

Just like that, the race was done. Sure I wasn’t the first but at least after that, I could proudly say I kept running and after that, I proudly added cross-country to my list of accomplishments. With an aching body and a very unstable, dizzy walk, I entered the school field welcomed not by more expanse of the road but by welcoming faces and celebratory cheers. That just made all of it, all the struggles, just a little but worth it.

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