Rachel ‘s knees burned as they skidded on the black top. The skin ripped from her palms, she stayed there for a few moment. Her hands and knees bled into the ground. Her heart pounded. Her lungs were fire. She didn’t think she could get up, but when the first girl passed her she had no choice. Rachel was going to win.
“It only matters that you do your best,” her father had told her, but she knew what he really meant. He always won. The dusty trophies in the box on the top shelf of the hall closet were proof. Ever since Rachel could reach them on her own she’d take them down when she was home alone and look at them. She’d feel the weight of them in her hands and run her fingers along the golden runner poised on top. “First Place,” they all said.
When Rachel started running track she was sure she would get first place too. It was her legacy. She had to learn that legacies like that weren’t handed down effortlessly. They required sweat and commitment. After losing her first few races she finally started to put her all into training. Training was the secret to success and Rachel stayed later and trained harder than anyone on the team. She couldn’t stand the look in her father’s eyes every time she lost. He’d say he was proud of her, but the way he looked the other way when he said it told her otherwise.
Rachel struggled to her feet. She didn’t have time to steady herself. If she was going to win she had to go now. Her first few steps were clumsy. Her toes dragging on the blacktop she nearly fell again, but she righted herself as another girl passed her. She could feel more runners coming up on her heels and she found her stride again.
She watched the two girls in front of her, ponytails bouncing and shoes kicking up dust. Rachel’s legs ached. Blood trickled down her shins. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t take in enough air. The world floated around her and she wondered if she would faint. Those girls were too fast the catch. She wheezed for air and considered collapsing only a few feet from the finish line. Then she saw her dad leaning over the barrier yelling her name. She was almost there.
Rachel dug in hard. She still can’t explain where the energy came from that powered her legs past those two girls faster than she’d ever run in her life. The source of it didn’t matter because Rachel crossed that finish line first. Her father lifted her spent sweaty body in the air and said, “That’s my girl. I’m so proud of you.” This time he meant it and Rachel knew she would never lose a race again.