Walking to my spot on the track, I tried to withdraw my attention from the crowd’s roaring chants. It was not my name they were saying now. But by the time I was done, it would be my name. By the time the race was done, I would have set a new record and they would all know my name. A tiny voice in my head warned me to not be over-confident. I nudged that voice aside. I felt fear cling to my legs. I shook them to set them free from fear’s clasp.
So many sacrifices were made to get where I was today. The nationals were not a small event. This was to be my stepping-stone to international races and international fame. I stopped at my track and resisted the urge to look around me. I didn’t want to focus on anyone else. My attention had to be on myself. My body, my mind, my potential, my faith. Faith. The word made me paused. Ma’s voice rang in my head. Before I had left home last month, she had said, “Think of the Lord before you run. Don’t forget to thank him and place your faith in him.” I had snickered at her words and reminded her that I had got where I had because of my own efforts. If God had his way, I would have never been here. If God was around why did he give us abject poverty? If God was around, why did he give me a father who abandoned us?
But in the past month, nothing had gone my way. The illness, missing the practices, coach rethinking my spot on the nationals, had finally driven me to listen to Ma. Ma’s insistence I pray, had led me to call out to God for help in a desperate feverish haze. And just like that I had suddenly recovered. Who could I credit that to? Nothing made sense. Everything seemed meaningless. If I was not responsible for my life, who was? The days I spent recouping my health, I felt I was looking at a meaningless world. I had believed I had to better my life because God wouldn’t. I had to show God I could do what God couldn’t – give me a good life. But had I really created it? Would winning the nationals really give me all I lacked as a child? The success seemed meaningless. The past seemed meaningless. What would really make me feel like life was worth living?
The announcer’s words drew my focus back to the moment. No! This was not the time for any thought. As I took my position, I felt fear rise up my spine. My mind tried to push it away. “God,” I whispered, “I don’t want to compete with you anymore. I don’t want to prove you wrong anymore. Let whatever has happened, be. From this moment on, let’s partner up please.”
The gun went off and I ran. I ran with ease. I ran without thought. I ran not for my life or victory but because I felt free. Freer than I ever had before. The fear that was holding my feet seemed to have lost its grip and my legs ran swiftly, smoothly and easily. As I crossed the finished line, I heard my name. It rose like a wave and fell, and then rose again into the heavens. I had won. We had won. God and me.