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A runner’s course

“On your mark,.. get set.. bang!” As twenty-five other competitors bolt forward all wanting to finish first, but there will only be one winner. I past one competitor at a time, until all I can hear is my breathing, deep breath in, deep breath out. Running, running feels like I am free. No judgement, no comments just me, myself and I. Unfortunately it’s probably my last race, I love running and I always will. I was born on the Six Nations reserve on June 4, 1887. Chores always kept my family busy, but I always found time for fun. Sometimes I snuck away to play lacrosse and I was a good player partly because of my speed. In spring 1905 I entered my very first race, which was the annual Victoria Day five mile race in Caledonia. I was nervous, constantly thinking about what if I mess up, how do I run, do I pace my self the whole way or run fast here and there, what if I come last?I realized that it doesn’t matter if you finish last or first or if you beat anyone. The only person you want to beat is you and the little voice inside of your head that tells you that you can’t do it.

Although I didn’t win the race I thought it was a great experience. So I decided to start training to gain strength and endurance. One of the big reasons I started to train was because a lot of people said that I wouldn’t be able to come in first because of my race, and I wanted to prove them wrong. Part of my training was running to neighbouring towns, I told lots of my family members about how far I had ran, but for some reason my own family wouldn’t believe me. I was frustrated that they didn’t think I could do it, so one day my brother and I had a race to Hamilton. He was driving a buggy and horse and got a half an hour head start, I was on foot and I beat my brother to Hamilton. Anyone who said they didn’t believe me, my bother backed me up. My training system was a success so when the annual Victoria Day five mile race in Caledonia, came around again I took the lead from the very beginning and finished at least 400 yards before the second place winner.

Deep breath in, deep breathe out. I am two thirds of the way through my race, and I am starting to get a little tired. Thud, thud, thud my feet go on the track. My legs are getting heavier with each step. Deep breath in, deep breath out, where was I…oh right. My coaches didn’t approve with my work out schedule. I often got called lazy although the practice of incorporating “hard”, “easy”, and “recovery” days into training is normal today. My next race was in Hamilton Herald, a race that was 19 miles. When I lined up at the starting line no one had ever heard of me, I was scared, I didn’t know how fast my competitors were going to be, and that little voice in the back of my head kept saying you can’t do it. When the race started I thought to my self we are going to prove everyone who thinks I’m not good wrong, and that’s exactly what I did. By the time that the race was over everyone was talking not of me because I had just finished the race in just over one hour, 49 minutes and almost three minutes ahead of the second place finisher. My win put me into the spotlight and trainers started to recognize my talent.

I can hear the crowd chanting my name. “Thomas, Thomas, Thomas”, they’re screaming my name, clapping chanting and stomping. “Thomas, Thomas, Thomas,” Now’s the time, I’m almost at the finish line, I’m sprinting as hard as I can as fast as I can, like my life depends on it. One foot, two feet. Finally I can relax, once again I have finished 4 minutes and 35 seconds before the second place competitor and I have beaten another record. I am taking a short walk with my water bottle in my hand so that my heart and pulse can calm down before I stand on the podium. The same year I took first in the 15-mile marathons on Ward’s Island in Toronto, and my career really took off when I won in the Boston Marathon, I never thought I could accomplish something as great as that. I had beat the previous record by a time of four minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Many people came up to congratulate me, I received many flowers and dainties which some of them I gave to my fellow competitors. Since I had won in the Boston Marathon my goal switched and I was focused and determined to get into the 1908 London olympics. Now getting to the olympics was not easy for me. As American officials contested my entry as an amateur athlete by stating that I had competed and trained as a professional. However during my race another competitor and I collapsed. I was devastated, I had worked so hard to get to the olympics and I collapsed, it didn’t make sense. I was training night and day, it was completely unusual for me to just collapse. Some people say that it was because trainers and people who didn’t like me sabotaged me with medicine. When war was declared in August 1914 I decided to join. However that didn’t stop me from running, whatever competitions that the army had set up I ran in them. Also it helped me in my role as a dispatch runner, taking messages between posts when communications where down. However when I returned home from the war things had changed, professional racing was no longer the draw it once was.

Now it’s much later in the day, everyone’s gone home. There’s just the quiet sound of the mops on the floor and my breathing, deep breath in, deep breath out. As I sit here and take off my spikes, I can almost see the memories flash in front of me. My legs, arms and feet are sore and stiff as I get up and take one last walk around where I spent years running and training. I guess this is it. I breathe in deeply smelling the sweat and the slight popcorn aroma, letting my fingers trail on the bleachers. I am slowly making my way to the door, running, running feels like I am free. No judgement, no comments just me, myself and I. I let my self out into the chilly December air and I hear the quiet click of the door, closing my running career.

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