Heart pounding, she took a ragged breath and tried coercing herself to go on. Her eyes shut down for a moment, and when she reopened them, the tears brimmed up and ran down her face. The pain in her ankle had increased tenfold; and she wondered how in a matter of just a few minutes, there could be such a drastic change in the agony.
Her mind reeled forward, but her body pulled her back, trying to break down all those years of vigorous practice. Her breath seemed to come out in short pants, and she no longer knew whether she was alive or dead. Just that she had to keep running, she had to get there.
Her mind pulled her back to those first rays of the sun, which had peeped their way through her window and woken her up from a difficult night. Her face was tear-stained and the wound on her ankle was still aching. Retying the bandage around the ankle, she willed herself to get up and stay strong enough to face that one day.
She heard her parents’ voice ringing in her head. She heard the coach. She heard her friends. She heard the laugh of her five-year old self, laughing out loud as she ran through the meadow. She heard the crack of the gun and the first ever run she had had. She heard the applause which followed after she had won the nationals. She heard it all, and she lived it all again.
Those final moments, she spent in fear, and hope, and belief. She urged herself to take one step after the other, and one step after the other. Drenched in sweat, intoxicated by the pain, and hopeless with worry, she closed her eyes. Her parents danced beneath her eyelids and she heard her own laughter again. Opening her eyes, she took one shattering breath and stretched her hands forward. Just before she collapsed, her fingers felt the ribbon and grasped them forward. The last thing she thought was, ‘I won’.