When I was in eighth grade, our class chose me to be one of the two students running an 800-meter race. The race took place during our school annual Field Day, the biggest event of the year where all students and faculty sat on bleachers watching.
Now, let me tell you, the class didn’t pick me because of my athletic ability. I barely passed the 800-meter run test in PE class a month earlier. However, no one worried about my performance since the other student was an excellent runner. She had long legs and a long ponytail that swung around even when she wasn’t running.
The teacher told me that The Ponytail would bring us the gold medal. All I had to do was finish the race and earn one point for completion. I agreed.
When the signal gun went off, all the participants dashed forward, except me. I was so nervous; I forgot to run. Someone yelled, “Go!” and I took off. All the runners ahead of me looked like the real deal—they were fast and furious. Immediately, I felt humiliated, trailing behind the group.
At fourteen, I was insecure and would do anything to blend in. So I ran faster to catch up with the pack, and stayed with them until I tired myself out.
Once again, I became the lone figure trailing behind. I felt everyone looking at me. They must be thinking what a loser I was. I thought about sneaking off the track and regretted having promised to earn that pathetic point for the class.
“Keep going!” someone yelled. I kept my eyes on the track.
“Good job!” another shouted. Go away, I thought.
At some point, people clapped, sparsely at first, then more energetically. By then, I realized I was the only one left in the race. My face burned, my legs burned, and my ego was torched. All I thought about was that one point I’d promise to earn. I crossed the finish line.
That was the only time I ever competed in a race, and it was the longest 800 meters in my life. Looking back, I’m proud that I kept my promise, no matter how bad it made me feel.
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