The muscles in my legs like they’ve been replaced with tightly wound coils locked in tentative place. The sun beats down and the smell of warmed rubber stretching before me is like a heavy cloud. I feel the texture of the ground at the starting line and everything is focused for the signal. A sudden horn blasts, and like a reflex, my mind goes blank.
The first few strides of a race are pure adrenaline. I barely feel the track and wonder if my legs are actually sprinting or just wildly flailing. My stride feels freakishly long to me but I in the corner of my eyes, I see the others give way to nothing but the red track. Can I actually be ahea….? Then, the fumble. Quite literally tripping over my own feet. That sinking realization that I was right.. my strides were freakishly long. I stumble and hit hit the track, but before I allow myself time to hear a response from the stands (probably a roar of laughter) I throw myself back up right and towards the girls who had by now, obviously run past me.
I am a sprinter. I love the sensation of running, but asthma and pitiful endurance sort of restricted my track and field options. On the flip side, I loved the intensity and excitement of sprinting. The seconds at the starting line, waiting for the horn alone was one of the most electrifying feelings. There was no strategy, no careful calculation, conserving energy and pacing yourself as you ran around the track. It was all over in a few seconds. You threw everything you had into one moment, and you made it count.
In many ways, being a sprinter is an instinct I have to fight against. Particularly in law school. Law school is not some mad dash in one blaze of glory. It’s a slow grind.
I’ve just made it through my second semester. This summer is going to be equally packed with internships and classes. It all begins on Monday. We got one (measly) week off to recuperate before launching back into the thick of the JD. I can hardly believe how fast it’s gone by.
I once read that the mark of a great leader is one that looks out the window during success, and into the mirror when there’s failure. I think that is really wise. While the term grades haven’t come out yet, I am taking this opportunity to take stock of how this past year has been.
I struggle with the urge to sprint. When I find something I am deeply passionate about, I feel an irresistible urge to pour everything I have into it… and then run the risk of burning out. Three quarters into a semester, I always feel completely drained, like there is no way I can slog through another case, or have the mental fortitude to keep all the balls up in the air.
My very favorite person is a runner. A long distance runner. There are so many ways that I wish I were more like him, but particularly with the marathon-mentality. When I’m rattling off my latest hair-brained scheme, or overloading on side projects, he raises an eyebrow and reminds me that I need to pace myself. To keep my eyes fixed on the finish line, not just the next 100 meters.
I find that I may stumble and indeed often fall. But having amazing people in your life make all the difference. They teach me how to handle both success and failure with grace. What I remember from that race in high school, what I’m most proud of.. is not the gold medal I eventually won the end. Rather the knowledge that despite stumbling, I picked myself up and finished the race.
The irony is.. I don’t think anyone other than me remembers that I fell. :)