Some people are said to have a competitive streak. I cannot deny that I am one of them. My appetite for victory is rather voracious after all. Nothing gives me such satisfaction as leaving my rivals in the dust and glimpsing their stunned expressions as I surpass their best efforts. But losing is a bitter, bitter pill for me to take. I don’t like to lose. I really, really don’t like it.

In front of my school gymnasium, a Track and Field course bathed in the sunlight. It was an ugly concrete beast upon reflection. No springy rubber cushioned the clunky steps taken on that stretch. The gray material breathed in the sunrays and exhaled waves of heat back into the atmosphere. Still, I looked forward to running on it and testing my mettle against its brutality.

One November day I was put to the ultimate test. For Thanksgiving heralds the arrival of a special event: the Turkey Trot. That is such a euphemistic title for such a miserable experience. Trotting? If only. No, its participants must strain their bodies and their minds, maintaining a brutal pace over 5,000 meters. Being a foolish, competitive turkey I naturally signed up for the event hosted at my school. Victory and glory awaited at the end of that finish line.

Naturally, I forgot the date. On the day of the race, I arrived at school dressed in jeans only to find my rivals in gym shorts. ‘Uh Oh,’ I thought, ‘The Turkey Trot’s today.’ I had brought no outfit to change into. Thankfully I had worn my sneakers so I figured “Screw it. I’ll just wing it.” Still I stuck out like a sore thumb, woefully dressed as I was. I could practically hear the skeptical thoughts of my friends and teachers. ”Is she really going to run in that?”

A whistle sounded and the competitors gathered at the starting line, all 80 of us. Volunteers dispersed to the distant track markers to guide the runners when the asphalt bled into concrete and grass. As the course was set up, the runners jostled anxiously for position. Unfortunately, I got stuck in the back of the pack. Then the gunshot! We were off!

I became trapped in a tangle of limbs. Too close. I was too close. I slowed down to escape even as my competitive mind screamed, “No! Don’t slow down! Faster! Faster!” My rational mind knew better though. ‘Open space and a steady pace’ was my mantra. I skirted to the outside of the curve. The distance was longer there, but I had no choice.

I settled into a rhythm. In, Out, In Out, Left, Right. Left Right. The world faded away. Breathing and running. That was my full existence. I was vaguely aware of crossing from the asphalt track onto the grass path but I can’t be sure. My mind was very far away. The pack had fallen behind, but I could still here the thumping of their shoes against the ground. Although, that might have actually been my heart.

The race continued in that fashion. Then, disaster! A stitch appeared in my right side. At first I tried to ignore it but the task became impossible. With every step my side throbbed and my breath hitched. My not-for-running pants clung to my joints, impeding my progress. Was I wading in muck? I gazed ahead. A fourth of the course still remained. Sweat ran from my forehead into my eyes. It stung and I blinked furiously. I had to continue. I couldn’t lose! Again I concentrated on my breathing. In and out. In and out. Forgetting the pain, forgetting the discomfort.

As I approached the final stretch, four competitors remained in front. I pushed myself as hard as I could go. I was gaining! But the finish line was too close. I couldn’t catch them. But I tried. How I tried!

I can’t tell you how disappointed I felt at that moment. My heart cried that I had lost. I was such a silly turkey because I had come in first. Boys and girls had competed in the same group but were judged separately. I was the first girl to cross the finish line.

As I regained my breath and my wits, this fact dawned on me. I would have liked to have beaten all the boys but I had far excelled expectations. Everyone wondered how I could have won dressed as I was. In response, I smirked. Though I blushed when presented with a medal and a frozen turkey. As competitive as I am on the field, I am surprisingly bashful in front of the crowd.

I still display that medal proudly. The turkey on the other hand…  

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