Wednesday haunted me like the ghosts and monsters I feared at night in my childhood bedroom. Each week, it just lurked in the middle waiting to get me. Monday would lead to Tuesday, and Tuesday to Wednesday, so no day was safe. And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t stop time. If I could, I would have stopped it on the last Wednesday night I spent with my dad before he ran away and never came back- the last day I felt his light shine on me and was able to laugh at the joy he brought me. He always knew how to make me feel safe, checking for those ghosts and monsters under my bed each night. But now the monsters and ghosts were his drug of choice – alcohol.
He was the man who gave me a love for track and field. He saw my talent and gave me the confidence to know I could be the best out there. During each race, the only voice I could hear was his, yelling: “Push, push!” I remember earning fourth place in all of South Jersey in fourth grade and immediately running straight to my dad to celebrate.
But when he was gone, both physically and mentally due to alcoholism, track soon became my most hated sport. It just reminded me of all I was missing, so many happy memories that had turned bitter once my dad chose alcohol over me and my brother. My dad had always been the one to encourage me, to remind me of how much I was capable of. Without him, I felt lost and alone, and almost worthless. I felt weak and I wasn’t able to push myself. Track became more like a chore than an escape, but I’ve always been stubborn and I refused to quit. My heart might not have been in it anymore, but for some reason I kept showing up. Shockingly, I was still my high school’s top sprinter for the season and made the Olympic Conference finals.
Making it to this meet with the best runners in South Jersey helped me realize that maybe I did have the strength and passion to love running again. Here I was, giving what felt like weak effort all season and yet I was still chosen to represent my school. Even though my running had felt dragged down by my thoughts and emotions, my ability was still there waiting for me to wake up and embrace it. I remembered the countless hours of practice I used to invest in running, how persistent and dedicated I was, and how confident I had always been. I didn’t need my dad to tell me I had what it takes to win; I just had to believe in myself.
It seemed almost symbolic that the race was held on a Wednesday – my least favorite day of the week. My heart was racing faster than a cheetah chasing down its prey and my hands dripped with sweat. I pushed down my nerves and told myself not to look at the crowd of spectators. It didn’t matter if no one was there to watch me race because all that mattered was doing it for myself. I lined up my blocks on the starting line and put my head down. “Runners take your mark…set” I lifted my bottom up. I was breathing heavily with my heart coming out of my chest. *BANG* – the gun went off and I jolted away from the ghosts and monsters behind me. Sprinting my legs out at top speed, I found myself again. With no dad there to cheer me on, I whispered to myself “Push, push!”
Huffing and puffing as I finished my race, my legs tingled as I chugged my water. The announcements went off: my name boomed from the speakers. I had made it to the final championship race all on my own. I allowed myself a quick glance into the stands and it didn’t matter that my section was empty. I was free.