The Team Comes First

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

A pair of track spikes hangs on my door. Colorway: teal/black/orange. Women’s, size five. They were the only ones available at A Runner’s Mind in my size. Those spikes sped my mile up by almost twenty seconds, and I loved them. Finding them was a blessing. Hanging them up for the last time was, too.

My Track and Field coaches value dedication over raw talent. Quitting, to them, is the worst thing imaginable; it jeopardizes the stability of the team. “The team comes first” is Coach’s catchphrase, and its constant repetition throughout each and every pre-practice lecture ingrained the phrase into my brain. “The team comes first,” I chanted silently as I braced myself to run another repeat of the workout, even though my shins, knees, and ankles were burning and throbbing in protest. “The team comes first” followed me through afternoons spent with bags of ice balanced precariously on my legs, through races where I pushed myself just a little harder to pass the girl in front of me and subsequently collapsed over the finish line, through the post-race patch-up that medics performed at each meet.

“The team comes first” echoed as I twisted the cap off my bottle of ibuprofen every four hours to dull the pain enough to allow me to limp...

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