I’m 12 years old and I’m staring down at a chalk white line on a dirt track in the middle of a field. There’s a feeling in my stomach. It’s not nerves, it’s not a feeling of tightness that often accompanies doubt - it’s a stirring. It’s pure excitement.
I’m not sure what will happen once I cross that line, but in the midst of the pause between the “on your mark” and the pop of the starting gun, all I can think about is how I can’t wait to find out.
In my first races, the starting line was a prelude to an opportunity. To an adventure.
And as the starting line became more commonplace in my life the feeling of adventure started to wane, as the feeling of hesitation and doubt became more dominant.
Was the starting line really a prelude to an adventure? Or was it a prelude to possible failure?
But in moments far and few between there were races in which during our warmup I would steal glances at the start line and feel that same feeling I had felt approaching the line for the very first time; an eagerness to cross the divide and to commit to self-discovery. To make the unknown, known. Coincidentally (not coincidentally at all) those were my best races.
And although start lines still have the ability to take hold of my stomach, and make me clench my fists, and go to the bathroom 500 times, I still remember the excitement of placing myself at a physical marker of opportunity.
There may be expectations, specific paces to hit, and people to impress. But, I hold onto the memory of that 12-year-old girl who went out arms flailing, heel striking, about 20 seconds too fast, with a smile on her face and a hunger to compete.
Because she knew the true meaning of a start line.