The field was packed with people, both athletes, and spectators. Television and radio crews had their vehicles parked, all of them giving live broadcasts of the sports competition currently going on.
It was perfect weather for a run. The sun was high in the sky, but with little heat. The steady breeze that blew dried up any sweat that managed to crop up. My entire body was in top shape, I had been training for this moment for over a month. I should have been ready.
But as it drew closer to my turn on the tracks, I hesitated.
"Hey Princess," my father called, coming up beside me. "It's almost time for your race."
Unable to meet his gaze, I looked down at my sneakers. I still didn't move.
"Princess, what's the problem?"
I looked at him then, his brown eyes were soft as they gazed at me. I knew how much me winning the race would mean to him. I looked away, a few paces off I could see my rivals. They were prepping for the run. I took in their brand new sneakers and tracksuits, and their long legs. There was no way my second-hand shoes could stand a chance against all that.
I looked away from them, to the spectator stand where members of my community were seated, waiting patiently to cheer me to victory. They had been following me diligently since the very first race, sponsoring my trips, accommodation, and feeding with the little they could provide. What would they do when I failed in the finals?
The thought alone was disheartening. Won't it be better to simply drop out of the race? Pretend to be sick?
"Princess I'm talking to you." My father called, bringing me back to my surroundings. "You're scared, aren't you?"
I let out a breath, and I nodded.
"I've always told you, that is very normal. It ensures you do not make mistakes."
"But Dad, have you seen the other girls? How can I win against them?"
"The same way you won the semifinals and the quarterfinals. By running, sweetheart."
"And look, the entire community is here. They've done so much to support me, what if I fail them?"
Letting out a sigh, my father went down on one knee, "I know what the community has done. But it wasn't just for you, it was for them also. You've done what no one else has ever done, you put your community on the map. Now people all over the world will know a place like ours exists. All thanks to you. By just being in the finals, you've done enough. And however this race goes, know that you did your best."
He shifted slightly, putting his hands on my shoulders, "but let us forget about the community for now. Why are you in this race?"
I looked at him once more, this was our usual dialogue before any race. Just a reminder of why I was on the tracks in the first place. At the moment, I found it very comforting.
"To win," I replied.
"And what will that get you?"
"I get a scholarship to study in the best Sports Academy in the world."
"And how would that benefit you?"
"I would become a Queen in the world of sports."
"Exactly, my princess. This race is about you. Consider how much you've put into it, consider how much you want it, for yourself, your family, and your community. And let that be your fuel."
"All athletes for the hundred meters race, on the tracks please." The announcer announced through the speakers.
"Okay baby." My Dad got back to his feet, "remember, it's only you, the tracks, and the finish line. Your competitors don't matter."
"Godspeed princess. When you hear the shot, run like hell."
With the other girls, I got to the tracks and took my position. Kicking out my legs to release any potential cramp. This race was the grand finale of the day and the tension had been building up to this moment.
"On your marks."
I went down, placing my fingers over the smooth tracks. I gazed at the finish line up ahead.
I pushed myself up, closing my eyes as I listened to my racing heartbeat. Taking a deep breath, I calmed it.
The single shot filled the air.
And I was off like a bullet. My legs and hands whipping through the air as I tore down the tracks.
Your competitors don't matter.
I saw no one else. Were they behind me or before me? I had no idea. All I cared about were my feet eating up the distance.
Remember, it's only you, the tracks, and the finish line.
Like a tunnel, my track was all I could see with the yellow ribbon at the end.
Let that be your fuel.
I was running, my secondhand sneakers barely touching the tracks before they went up again. The finish line drew close and closer. Beckoning me.
Closing in, I shot my chest forward and went through the finish line, taking the ribbon down.
As I stopped running, my vision and hearing cleared. I saw the other girls come up behind me. I could hear cheers, the entire spectators were screaming in happiness.
I smiled then, letting it sink in. I had won. I had beat the competition that had better tools.
I was lifted into the air by the members of my community, they were singing victory songs as they flooded the tracks. I had made them proud. Just behind them, I could see my father, grinning at me. He gave me a thumbs up.
I was well on my way to becoming a queen. Nothing could stop me.
Thank you for reading.
Feel free to contact me via my Discord handle: