The half-mile is a grueling race. It’s just long enough to be considered a distance run, and just short enough that it still requires a dead sprint. After passing the quarter-mile line, every half-mile racer knows they have the worst ahead of them. From there, it is another quarter-mile, even faster than the one before.
It was on that second lap that I found myself out of breath, head and chest pounding, and losing the ability to move my legs at sectionals of my junior year. It was not, however, the painful feeling that I remember most, but the response I gave to it: I did not stop, or even slow down.
I pushed every bit of energy I had left into my legs and sprinted the last quarter-mile to the finish line. I have had those moments of pain many times in my life, but oddly, I am thankful for every one of them. Each one brings new lessons and new rewards. It is during the most challenging times that we stand to gain the most for ourselves. It was after that time that I gained a new respect for what hard work and perseverance meant.
Even to this day, I can still compare my challenges to that feeling and know the worst will pass. I have come through each challenge victorious and learned something new every time. I have found that we live life to experience the happiest times, but we are defined by the worst. It is the way we handle adversity that shapes our character and our beliefs. This in itself has taught me yet another lesson: by handling adversity head-on, I can only strengthen myself. Now I seek challenge willingly in the pursuit of new strength. My life is defined by hundreds of quarter-mile sprints, each harder than the last. However, they are not more difficult because they are increasing in length, but because I am running faster than ever before. With each numb sprint, my strides are longer and my will stronger. When track season comes again this year, I will look forward to the numb sprint of the last quarter mile. This I believe: we are defined by our greatest adversity because it shapes our greatest strength.