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Running in the rain...A race to remember

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sports Cloquet, 55720
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I’m watching the black cloud curl menacingly over the track like a clenching fist. Lightning streaks across the distant horizon, sending crackling spiderwebs across the sky. I look down at my watch just as the rain begins to fall; it’s 9:30 p.m., and the bus was supposed to leave six hours ago. A large storm system had periodically blasted the Section 7AA Track Meet in Zimmerman with heavy clouds, piercing rain and rolling thunder, causing multiple delays all day long.

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However, after hours of safety precautions and delays, it was time to race.

Any track coach will tell you how important the 4x400 relay is. Since it’s the last race in almost every track meet, it’s a final struggle for superiority among rival teams. Runners are challenged to fight fatigue from previous events, while competing for the last victory.

I’m the last runner — or anchor — of our team, and I stand shivering at the starting line with athletes from other schools, waiting to run and find relief from the downpour. Finally I spot senior Jace Anderson, our third runner, hurtling towards me through the darkness. His face is contorted with pain and fury as he sprints the remaining 50 meters of his split.

My hand grips the purple baton as his releases, and I jolt forward along the first curve. The rain quickly turns into a deafening roar as drops transform into bullets, stinging my arms and legs.

The storm builds in intensity as wind whips my hair. My breath releases in shriveled gasps as even more water droplets splash down.

As I round the final curve, I enter another world. My eyes blur, and the downpour completely envelops me. I rely on the white lines of the track to guide me, as I can no longer see past an arm’s length in any direction. The field lights refract through the rain, blinding me with white light. I can no longer hear myself breathing — the thunder and rain are too loud. Every stride becomes a battle, but I imagine my team cheering me on somewhere through the white veil.

Suddenly, as my legs are turning numb and my diaphragm threatens to break, I cross the finish line. My aching body steps into the sea of jerseys huddled against one another for protection against the elements. Jace claps me on the back and we scramble to find our soaked belongings strewn across the field.

As we all migrate towards the warm bus — and the promise of hot pizza — the mood lightens, despite the frightening conditions. I smile as I find warm clothes inside and wrap myself in a heavy quilt. After every race, there is always a sense of satisfaction, but I’d never experienced such a mixture of pride and relief as I did after that race. Feeling warm content spread throughout my sore, wet limbs, I take a bite of pizza and start the long journey home.

Dylan Marvel is a recent Cloquet High School graduate and is the Pine Journal’s summer intern.

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