Content warning: anxiety, self-deprecation
My arms were perpendicular to my bent legs as I stood on the starting line of my high school’s track. In the mere twenty seconds before I was supposed to run, I saw girls from a multitude of different schools crowd in next to me. In front of me were the definitive white lines cutting the sea of red into rectangles.
I started sweating before I was even running, my heart pumping at an extremely rapid rate. Then came the dreaded stomach ache. It was all I could feel. The pain was like a viscous quicksand that spread, hitting my insides. Any pain I ever felt running, from the shins hitting the track too abruptly to my arms being sore from pumping at the end, would never compare to the complete agony I felt in my stomach.
And then the thoughts happened. There’s no way I can beat any of these girls. I’m not good enough, I can’t even run a warm-up without landing miles behind the rest of the team. Why do I suck so much? If it’s not running it’s school, and if it’s not school it’s annoying everyone around me. No matter how hard I try I’ll never be good enough, and I’m always gonna get last place.
I’m a failure.
The starting gun finally goes off and I’m snapped out of my thoughts as I stumble to start running. Now I was getting a rotational view as my legs made their way across the first curve and I saw every eye staring at me, getting their hands ready to pity clap. I had every power to fight being in last place, I’m sure I could’ve sprinted my way out of the crowded pack of girls. But I didn’t. My thoughts castigated me. I belong here, away from everybody else. I don’t deserve a higher place.
I run the 800 meters like I run everything else, as the gap between me and the girl ahead only became larger. When I had 100 meters left to go, she was done. Last place was mine like it always was. But I pumped my arms and quickened the rhythm of my legs moving, and eventually I finished. The panic wore off as I breathlessly cursed myself for proving my worthlessness, wishing I could be good enough to do anything right.