There’s nothing like being on a track. If I had to pick a place where my life began, it would be there. I guess if you want to be specific, it would be Mcdowell’s track in Erie, PA. It’s not home. It’s not a place where I go to often. I would even say I have less memorable memories than I do memorable ones. But when I go there, my legs tell me, “get the fuck off the track.”
That usually doesn’t happen. I run on railroad tracks and my legs tell me to go faster. On a running track, it’s different. I’ve been told that I wasn’t good enough to be on the track. “You’re too slow Thanh” or “You suck Thanh” are the voices I hear over and over again in my head. This might sound hard, but I hear the same voices when I’m taking a math test as well, and I’m really good at math.
It started when I was a kid. My two brothers and I were competitive with each other. We still are. We try to see who the best was…in everything. I don’t want to get too into it, but I’ve never won in anything, not even in a height contest. I don’t remember when I was ever taller than my little brother. So when I told them I was joining the track team in high school, they had a poll: When Will Thanh Quit the Track Team? If I had to bet on me, it would’ve been a month, but my brother’s friend had taken it already.
I wasn’t fast, so distant running was my only chance to succeed in a sport that is so individualized. I remember my first race. There were two heats. I was in the slower heat. Running on track is nothing like running on cement. The cement absorbs your feet. The track acts like a propeller for your feet. I’m a helicopter trying to get off the ground. Once I hear someone say go, I’m off.
Now for most of my track career, I usually finished last. And that was ok with me. I was just happy that I could run around the track four times without quitting. You see for me quitting was always an option. I never learned not to quit. On the track field, it was different. You had everyone watching you, rooting you on. People don’t quit for many reasons. They never learned how not to quit or they feel like failures if they did quit. For me, I was afraid to quit. I still am. I think it’s the only good thing to be afraid of, that and serial killers.
It so happens that after a couple of years of not quitting, I got good. Good enough to be beat people in a race. The track is life to me. Whatever I do, I’m afraid to quit at it. I might be bad at it, but give it time, I would slowly, but surely, beat you.