It starts off steady. I put one foot in front of the other to create an even tempo. My head watches my feet, encouraging them to go faster.
It’s easy at first. Kids run through the fountains and climb on the playground around me; the river sparkles as I pass by.
“You can do this,” I tell myself.
As I approach the river trail, the road ahead looks dark. The trees provide shelter and muffle the children’s laughter. I have reached a peaceful hush. My thoughts don’t wander far — they stay focused on my breathing.
I look down and see I have a companion: a black dog who is striding along next to me. I turn around and see a frazzled owner running toward me with an apologetic look in her eyes. I smile at my new pacesetter. The dog urges me to go faster and faster, until its owner finally catches up to us and stops the dog. I make strides to keep my faster pace.
I reach a break in the trees where a pavilion sits on a lawn. A group of families are barbecuing as their children chase each other. They look up and wave when I pass by, urging me not to give up. The clearing is short, and soon I am under the trees again. I am pushed forward by the rise and fall of hills.
Now I know I’m reaching the halfway point — the place where I stop, shift directions and run back to where I started. The mouth of the Brazos flows into the horizon. It’s the same scenery every day, telling me I’m halfway to the end of my run. My speed accelerates with my smile.
I know the landmarks now. Each rock I pass urges me to go faster. I speed by couples strolling through the trail and cyclists exploring the paths. Everyone smiles and encourages me to keep running.
“Sprint to the end,” I say.
The sound of children laughing resurfaces and the familiar view of the park surrounds me. My feet pound faster and faster until I finally arrive. After running six miles, I’ve reached the end.
My shirt is sweaty, and my hands stick to my knees as I bend over to catch my breath. I did it. Another run has been accomplished, and a faster time will be etched into my record book. The children laughing, the dog running beside me, the family and cyclists cheering and the beautiful landscape — these are the things responsible for my success. These are the things that can be found within the heart of Cameron Park.