58,080 Feet | My Family Travels
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I stepped onto the cross-county team’s coach bus, and pangs of nervousness tumbled around in my belly. Our bus, equipped with fuzzy-screened DVD players, chugged up the treacherous mountain side.  As the thunderous sound of the motor hummed in my ears, I curiously wondered how many mangled bodies rotted below the steep cliff. Out one window green tree tops greeted me, and out the other, the rocky and barren mountain-side reminded me of the desolate county I was in. As we reached 1,875 feet above sea-level, my anticipation steadily built, and my heart pumped dread through my limbs. The horror stories that my teammates had told me the night scuttled through my mind. I wiped my slick and sweaty palms against my sweatpants and attempted to mentally prepare for this adventure.

â–º  QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP

At the trail-head, we galloped down the steep steps of the bus, and the 40° degree mountain temperature chilled me to the bone. Even though it was July 24, my skin resembled the mountainous peaks surrounding us.

The piercing shriek of my coach’s whistle jolted us all to a steady jog, and we began our eleven mile Bighorn Mountain Running Camp challenge.

With flushed cheeks and beads of perspiration dabbled along my taunt hairline, I shucked off my black elastic mittens and my sweaty long-sleeve shirt at the three-mile pit stop. Miles four to five-and-a-half were a steady and winding climb, the luscious canopy of green forbidding me to see the awaited descent.

At the sixth mile marker, I gratefully gulped chilly water from a re-used Gatorade bottle. The faint taste and smell of remaining grape flavoring tickled my senses and challenged my stomach. I swished water around in my mouth dislodging the sticky saliva that clung to my cheeks. Then we continued on our trek once again.

Following the sixth mile, I was running farther than I ever had. The pounding thuds from my tennis shoes evolved into a monotonous rhythm. The bright chirps and tweets of birds hidden somewhere in the forest reminded me that there was still happiness in the world even when I was in misery. 

After the seventh mile, each twinge of pain that radiated throughout my body was magnified, and the large stretch of monotone gravel before me taunted with my mental toughness. My core was burning up, but to the touch my rosy skin was like that of a corpse.

One hour and thirty-five minutes into the running camp challenge, I had one and one-half miles remaining, one treacherous upward trek, and one very nice downhill leading into the finish. Flashing through my mind was my goal time of less than two hours. A sudden burst of adrenaline pumped through my veins, and I was determined to reach my objective.

On the final descent leading to the bus, my tired knees soaked up the impact as my body lurched forward with gaining momentum. A cloud of gravel smoke followed in my wake. I triumphantly touched the muddy taillight of our bus and stopped my watch. 1:52:25.

Although not nearly the first to finish, I ran a distance of 58,080 mountainous feet in my goal time of less than two hours. At that moment there was no greater feeling than the sweet satisfaction of completing my eleven mile challenge.

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