Photo by Annie Lomshek
Every stride I take feels like I’m dragging my legs through a pile of wet cement. At this point, my body is practically numb to the burning pain. Every time I swivel my head to look behind me, sweat drips into my eyes. But I cannot, for the life of me, slow down. My little sister is not going to beat me. Not at running, at least.
I crossed the line and a laminated, pink card with the number “4” in the middle is shoved in my hand. Phew, I can actually breathe now.
58 seconds later, my freshman sister Eleanor, comes barreling down the hill and gets thrown a number “5” place card. The amount of humiliation I would have felt if she beat me is unreal–I would have had to hear her blabbing on about how she beat me for the next week.
My sophomore year, I went out for cross country and somehow made bottom of varsity. Eleanor placed middle of varsity at time trials her freshman year. Yeah, I was bitter she was able to do that well.
Even though I won that race, most of the time when it comes to sports, it feels like I can never fully beat Eleanor. She has always been the more athletic one–you’re welcome, Eleanor. I said it. I gave up gymnastics in second grade, soccer in fifth grade and basketball freshman year. Eleanor, however, is still playing soccer and basketball and also participated in a few other sports on top of those throughout her elementary school years.
Now here we are, her freshman year and my junior year, and she manages to place one spot behind me in the cross country time trials.
With the season finally starting, I was a bit worried about being shown up by my little sister in drills, workouts and races. But somehow, having her there every day at practice, occasionally beating me in intervals around Windsor Park, isn’t awful. We both push each other to run faster and then are able to relate about how hungry we are once the workout is over.
Naturally, since we are sisters, there is some unspoken competition there between the two of us. Whoever runs farther or finishes the loop quicker wins. But whenever one of us “wins,” we don’t shove it in each other’s faces. We both acknowledge the fact that running is hard and high five the other one.
I know we both never thought we’d ever be hearing our cross country coach yell, “Get up there Hlobik girls and lead the pack of runners for a bit.” Nevertheless, we both never thought we’d be doing cross country. We were never runners and would never voluntarily go for a run when we were younger. But here we are, running on Mission Road together every day after school and eating pasta at carbo-load dinners together.
It’s inevitable for there to be some petty arguments about insignificant topics, like who’s taller, between us on runs. But, I’d say running has brought us closer together. It’s a different type of bond that no one else in our family can completely relate to. From car rides home every day after practice, ranting about running at the dinner table and even just offering advice to each other before a race, running has forced us to become not just better sisters, but better friends.
Sure, when I look up in our first cross country meet of the season and see my gangly little sister up ahead of me, it does irk me a little. But I’ll get her next week…