Running with Burke; my last walkathon

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Manuel Medina

Me, Blayr Young, at the final stretch of the walk-a-thon

I’ve played soccer my whole life, but I would not consider myself a runner, so I definitely surprised myself and my friends when I showed up to run at this year’s walkathon. This year there was a prize for the first, second and third place finishers, but my goal was just to finish the race early and get enough time to rest before my volleyball practice.

The starting line was full of cross country runners and wrestlers wearing that little strap that goes around your arm to hold your phone and very little clothing considering how cold it was that day.

I thought to myself, “Wow everyone looks way more prepared than I do.”

Still, I didn’t want my virtual lack of experience to hold me back; I was determined to finish the race.

When the race started, I could tell that everyone was locked in while I was making jokes and complaining about all of the puddles on the path. The first mile was very easy. Most of the runners were all together in one group, but shortly after, I noticed I started to break from the pack.

By the third mile, it was just me and another senior running side by side. I did not want to turn around; I did not want to break my rhythm. I pushed myself more than ever and thought “maybe I can actually win this year.”

But even as I focused on that possibility, I was starting to lose feeling in my legs.  The strong winds from the lakefront was blowing against me, but I kept going.

I had been in the lead for quite a while, but as soon as I started to get comfortable with the idea of actually winning, it happened.

Mr. Dan Burke came out of nowhere and passed me.

Burke is my theology teacher, a great role model and a fantastic listener. He is also the school’s cross country coach, and apparently he runs 10 miles every day. I knew Burke was an avid runner, so I wanted to impress him. So for the next mile I ran neck and neck with him.

The wind started to blow harder, and I started to cramp up, but I kept pushing myself. Unfazed, Burke was right there with me. I had many thoughts of quitting, and I ignored them, but when I approached a small upward slope in the path, I stopped running.

Watching Burke get farther and farther away from me, I told myself I would only need a short break. I had a lot less time than I thought because my break ended abruptly once another student started to catch up to me.

It turned out to be Billy McHugh, the best cross country runner at the school. We began running neck and neck. Running turned into sprinting as we were both determined to leave one another in the dust. I could not keep up with him for much longer, and I began to walk once again.

Finally I gave up. I started telling myself things like “You never had a chance,” and ”You’re not a runner; forget about the prize money.” Then I turned around. No one was there. I was so far ahead of everyone else that I still had a good chance of getting third place.

I began running the last mile. I eventually caught up to Burke and McHugh. Not close enough to pass them, but at least I could see them again. That alone motivated me to run even faster.

I finished the race in third behind Burke and McHugh. Even though I lost, I was proud of myself. Right after I passed the finish line, I collapsed. While I was laid out on the ground, someone tapped my shoulder. It was Burke; he reached his hand out to help me up. He told me I did a good job and preceded to tell everyone around how impressive it was that I kept up with him.

Thank you Mr. Burke, for being so much more than just a teacher.

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