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By: Lauren Dietrich, Editor-in-Chief

My fourteenth birthday came with no advantages. No R-rated movies, no tattoos, no driver’s license; however, I received one gift. Today was the day, I was given not only the privilege, but the honor… to run three miles. My first three miles on the Elkhorn South cross country team.

 

My tired eyes didn’t want to open; they wanted to go back into the deep sleep I hadn’t gotten all summer long. But instead, I rolled out of bed, put on a stained Husker t-shirt, a knock-off pair of Nike shorts, and laced up my much used Asics.

 

My mom’s silver 2009 Hyundai Veracruz rolled up to the infamous, incredibly embarrassing parent-drop-off.

 

“Good luck honey! And Happy Birthday!”

 

I wobbled my timid legs down the muddy green grass towards the backside of Elkhorn South High School’s gym.

 

I did ten minutes of less-than-vigorous stretching on hot Wednesday morning concrete as my nerves kept rising. I didn’t think I was ready. Three miles was important, it was the distance of a race, it was the benchmark I had to hit to be apart of this sport. For weeks I had been running with the girls on the team, paying my freshman dues, one mile at a time. I went to all five practices a week, bright and early at eight a.m. Half the time I felt like throwing up when I finished, and would lag behind the girls in front of me. But Coach Ebers cared about self-doubt even less than he cared about side cramps, and I was going to have to run regardless.

 

Coach Ebers assigned running groups based and speed and “athletic-ability”, and put my anxious freshman self with Lauren Kraudy. Of all people he could have put me with, why Lauren Kraudy? She was fast, way faster than me, and I didn’t think I’d be able  to keep up. He handed me a silver Garmin watch to track me speed and distance, still sticky from day old sweat. I was off.

 

Lauren led the way, chatty from being unchallenged by the quick pace.

 

“Got any Birthday plans other than being here, experiencing death first hand?”

 

I could barely breathe let alone answer a question about my unexciting birthday plans.

 

“Um–” two deep inhales, “Probably just Village Inn or–” one exhale, “something.”

 

My legs carried me further and further past the flagpole starting point. The watch beeped: one mile in, two to go.

 

One foot in front of the other, for just a half mile, then turn around, I repeated in my head.

 

I was so focused on my thighs pressuring me to stop moving, and trying to trick my mind into not thinking about how tired I was, I wasn’t even looking…

 

The harsh cement below me was the only thing that braced my fall from tripping over my feet. Perfect.

 

Blood gushed profusely from both knees, my ankle splatting like a fried egg onto the hot concrete. This wasn’t apart of my birthday plans.

 

Lauren Kraudy did a 180  at the sound of my body hitting the ground, and her mouth dropped.

 

“OH MY GOD! Are you Okay? What even happened?”

 

“Just being clumsy as per usual.”

 

“Can you still keep going????”

 

Did it look like I could finish the freaking half mile?

 

“Um I don’t think so.”

 

My clumsy feet trudged all the way back to school as my last half mile turned into an “L”. My ankle felt like it had been hit with a hammer, my knees looked like they had gotten in a fight, and my three mile goal crushed.

 

As a faster group of 16 skinny legs ran by, they yelled across the 100 meter gap.

 

“Dietrich what happened to you? Isn’t it your birthday?”

 

My mood was bad enough to only give one answer.

 

“I guess.”