As the last few weeks of summer 2018 came to a close, I began to become increasingly sentimental and fond of the memories over my previous years of high school. As cliche as it may sound, it feels as if yesterday I was walking through the doors of my high school as an intimidated, nervous freshman.
I began to think back to all of the wonderful times that these past three years have brought me: Every race, every team party, every talk at the lunch table, every Friday night football game, and all the many other events that encompass high school life. It occurred to me that this was the last year that I will be with all of my peers that I have gone through life with since grade school and with that realization I became overwhelmed with a fondness of my time spent as a high student.
As summer came to a close and the last-first day of high school came and went, along with it the last-first pep rally, football game, and cross country practice, I was enveloped in a feeling of nostalgia. Amid one of my bouts of nostalgia, I started to rummage through an old drawer filled with memories from the past. I found birthday cards from years ago, awards from previous school years and many other little knick-knacks that hold a special amount of sentimental value.
While sifting through this drawer overflowing with keepsakes, I came across two pieces of notebook paper folded together. Upon opening up the paper, I quickly remembered what the pages were and why they were so valuable to have been kept for so long. What I found was a letter that I wrote during my eighth grade year about a life-changing race that I ran with my grandfather, Bryan, in April of 2011.
The pages astonished me as I had nearly forgotten what was written upon them and how deeply the message is pierced within my soul. The letter, titled "The Race With Bryan" read exactly as follows:
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Bryan and Austin on the day of the race.
"The thought came to me around 3:00 a.m, on a cold, sleepless night in the winter of my eighth grade year. As I tossed and turned trying to catch some sleep, my mind would not cease to wonder. I thought of everything: God, family, the meaning of life, running, everything that meant the most to me. As my mind continued on, it came across a time in which was one of my last fond memories with my (late) grandfather Bryan.
As I thought about the 2011 Crescent City Classic 10K race, I realized something that could be no coincidence. That race was a symbol of the time I had with Bryan and I believe that the Lord gave me that race to remind me of the time I had with him.
In the beginning of the Crescent City Classic 10K run in 2011, I ran alongside my dad and Bryan. Bryan was using this race as nothing more than an easy training run for his rigorous marathon training. At this time, I was just beginning my journey into the wonderful world of running. This was going to be the farthest I had ever run--6.2 miles or 10 kilometers. In the beginning of that race, while I ran along with my grandfather, I felt like the champion of the world.
To be running alongside a man who, before work at 4 a.m. would run every single day, felt absolutely amazing. In this time I was reminded of the first ever 5K that I had ever run with (him) just a few short months before. This part of the race symbolized, I believe, the time I had with Bryan. Bryan soon began to pick up the pace and was soon out of our sight.
Although I was not with him long , neither in life nor in the race, it was some of the most special of time. Every single moment with Bryan was special and is even more special to me now than it is in the past. Although he was gone after only a short while, in both the race and in life, he was and still is with me.
The middle section in which Bryan was out of the sight was the toughest part of the race. Although he was not in sight, I knew that he was still running with me. At this time, when "side-stitches" and minor pains arose I just kept charging on and pushing through hoping to catch a glimpse of Bryan somewhere. From time to time, as we turned corners or changed our route, I would catch a flash of the great man. This portion symbolized my life right now. Just like in the race, Bryan was not in sight but I know he is always living with me. There are going to be tough times in my life--and the lives of my family without him--where we are going to have to slow down, catch our breath, and keep charging on. From time to time, we catch small glimpses of Bryan in our daily lives. In times when I find myself on a lonely road on a long run, I think of Bryan and I feel a small piece of him in me.
The final section was the finish. At around mile 5 it was just my dad and I running alongside each other. At this point, Bryan had already completed his race and was awaiting us at the finish line. Exhausted, I asked my dad "How much farther?" "Little less than a mile!" he replied. As we continued on that final portion, we turned a corner and saw a long straight-away with a large sign shouting "FINISH." Knowing that my grandfather would be there, with a smile upon his face and to greet us at the finish, I sprinted with all I had left. Once I crossed the finish line, I found Bryan, who greeted me with a smile and a big hug!
This portion symbolized the finish line of life and how I have hope and belief that Bryan will be there to greet me when my time on this earth comes to an end. Although he crossed the finish line before me, it gave me something to look forward to when I reach the finish line myself.
So as I lie astonished at the realization that this race was a metaphor for my life with Bryan, given to me by the Almighty Father above, I felt immense joy that God had finally opened my eyes at how symbolic that Crescent City Classic 10K was in my life.
I am assured that although there may be tough times in life, I will be able to continue on by the motivation of glimpses of Bryan in my life. Finally, I know that when I turn the final corner in my life and I see the "Finish Line" that I can be reassured that my grandfather will be there to greet me in my eternal home with my savior, Jesus Christ."
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Recently, as I sat on my bed--with tears pooling in my eyes--and read this letter that I had saved for so many years, I was renewed with a sense of joy and anticipation to do what I have come to love in those many years since that 10k-- Run!
Our senior season of cross country is now upon us, and I wish time would slow down.
In this last year of running, I want to do just what that letter reads: to finish strong. I have been blessed with a wonderful high school running career and I am excited and expectant of the things that this final year will bring.
I forever will remember the day I ran my first 5k after my grandfather passed away; it was then when I first realized and felt the joy in running that he had for so many years.
I am forever grateful for the man he was and for him seeing a talent in me that I would have never recognized myself.
Every time I toe the line this season, his memory and spirit will be with me. Knowing this, it's going to be a great year!