Story by Lilian Zhu
Illustration by Martin Walsh
I ate a sandwich on Sept. 3, 2021 that destroyed all my hopes and dreams. Admittedly, it was my fault since I decided to eat a questionable turkey sandwich that had sat out in my car on a 90 degree day for all of first and third period. And while I have moved past the denial and anger part of the five stages of grief, I have yet to stop mourning and start the healing process.
In the weeks leading up to this day, I put almost all most of my focus into running (whether my motivation was actually caring about the sport or because I needed to escape from the black hole of misery known as life I decline to say). I countlessly compared different times and distances of 3200 meter PRs I ran in track four months ago and my sophomore cross country season times. My 40-minute pool workout streak for over 21 days and stubborn adamance of getting at least 8 eight hours of sleep every day, even if it meant sacrificing my grades from missing my homework, were my two most prized intangible possessions. All my efforts to keep a consistent training regimen were in my control, except a bacteria-swamped sandwich. So with a few innocent bites, I got food poisoning on the day of the first cross country invitational in nearly two years.
However, just my luck, the incubation period of the bacteria lasted from noon, when I consumed the sandwich, to exactly 8:40 p.m., when my race was scheduled to go off. So I still warmed up, stretched, and prepared for the race with zero premonition that I could possibly run a time I wouldn’t be satisfied with.
The first 800 meters went out fast like I expected, so the quick appearance of fatigue and labored breathing seemed natural to me. As the race progressed, the pain of running and lactic acid crept up to me. I passed the halfway point just as the brightly lit timer blared 10:16 in a neon red glow. I mustered all my energy to push on, knowing that any time I finished in would leave me more dignity than a DNF. That day, I experienced the most pain of my six year running career.
I stumbled and nearly walked across the finish line. As my legs, the only body part that kept enough blood flow to my brain, collapsed the world faded to black. I woke up shortly after, somehow 20 meters from the finish, with everything spinning worse than any rollercoaster I had been on.
To be continued….(I definitely did not forget to finish this)