UTEP runner Kitria Stewart’s legs are all in her mind

Kitria Stewart

EL PASO, Texas — My heart is racing. My mind replays the race over and over again 30 minutes before it begins, with me envisioning how I will perform. A part of me is very confident, telling me I will run well, while the other part doubts my ability to finish the 800-meter run.

The gun goes off.

Eight competitors bump and push at my side and I gradually move with them through the first lap.  One more to go. We run together in a group, packed like sardines in a can. There is nowhere to break out because we are running at a steady pace.

Going into the final lap of the race, I hear the sound of the bell, I begin to feel the lactic acid build-up in my legs. My shoulders are feeling tight and my body posture is starting to weaken.

The sound of the crowd is intense, but I only hear it fading in and out.

In the last 250 meters of the race, I feel like vomiting as I increase the speed. I start to spit as I feel and dodge my opponents’ spikes creeping up on the back of my heels.

The last 150 meters.

UTEP Women's Track and Field team. (Michael P. Reese/Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

UTEP Women's Track and Field team. (Michael P. Reese/Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

I take a full deep breath and sprint with all I have left. My arms are pumping from my eyes to my butt. My legs are lifting and my spikes are gripping the ground stretching to reach the finish line.

As I approach the tape, I am struggling with all my might, but while I’m using all of my technique, my body feels like it’s not moving. My body is so tight that I feel like I am running in slow motion.

Then the race is run.

Exhausted, I instantly bend over and put my hands on my knees. Officials rush over to help me off the track. I put both hands on my head and breath in through my nose and out my mouth to help my body recover. Ten minutes later, my body is in recovery mode. I feel like new again.

This sport is more than physical. Every athlete has to have a very strong mental attitude. If the mind is not 100 percent ready, Track and Field will demolish the body. Many people don’t think there is a purpose to this sport. They believe that the athlete just runs, jumps, and throws without any purpose. They don’t understand the concept of being a competitive performer.

Track and Field is one of the most difficult sports. Hard work and dedication have to be applied daily in order to see a difference in performance. There is no escape from that. There is no riding the bench and standing on the sideline bragging about your talents.

As I approach the tape, I am struggling with all my might, but while I’m using all of my technique, my body feels like it’s not moving. My body is so tight that I feel like I am running in slow motion. (Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

As I approach the tape, I am struggling with all my might, but while I’m using all of my technique, my body feels like it’s not moving. My body is so tight that I feel like I am running in slow motion. (Courtesy of UTEP Athletics)

One of my former coaches always said in practice, “maximum input equals maximum output.” Some of the other sports allow players to put on a front to make it seem like they are that “superstar” athlete. Track and Field, on the other hand, showcases your talent. When it’s time to perform, everything is on the line.

With 13 years of competing in this sport, I have learned to be disciplined, apply time management, and realized the most that I’m capable of doing as a human being. I also learned that you must train as if you are in competition. Your teammates are also your opponents, and everyone is selfish when it comes to this sport.

At the age of 7, I started thinking that running track was just something to do in my spare time. However, running became more then just a spare time, activity. It became a daily three hours of my life. Those three hours then turned into eight-hour track meets, and those hours turned into two- to-five-day overnight trips. I do more then just run when it comes to this sport. I’m living it.

I love the competitive athlete that I have become and the better athlete that I’m becoming. This sport is paying for my education and has given me a mission in life. If I don’t have the chance to compete at the next level, I will complete my task by reaching out to others, for I know that there are future athletes who are in my circumstance, who need a helping hand.

The UTEP Women Miners ended their season at the NCAA Cross Country Regional Championships on November 13, 2010, missing NCAA championships by 3 points. Gladys Chumba, Karina Garcia and I competed very well and ran our personal best times. Completing the top five members of the team, Risper Kimayo and Kathya Garcia continued to the NCAA Championships, finishing a great season. We are now training and preparing for the first competition of 2011 that will take place at the Lobo Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico on January 15.

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4 Comments

  • Zita Arocha
    Zita Arocha says:

    Kitria, thanks for sharing your story of athletic prowess and confidence. You are an inspiration to other young woman, and the fact that you can express it all so well in writing bodes well for your future as a writer.

  • Kitria Stewart
    Kitria Stewart says:

    Thank You Ms. Arocha. I really appreciate your Comment!

  • Anitra Scott says:

    Great Job!

    You are truly an inspiration to those involved in sports, academia as well as those who may consider becoming agile. The arts and sports alike allow individuals to become grounded, and more aware of what life has to offer. The mental and physical growth development that an athlete such as you has endured is phenomenal. You have the ability to experience the sport of running track at its best, between competitions all over the United States, to interacting with talented teammates from other countries. Both young men and women share your passion. This forces a person such as me to ask, “Is it as fulfilling as your column reads”? I am positive that your answer is yes. I commend all of you. I pray that each of you prosper and accomplish all of your dreams. Remember if you want “it” bad enough, whatever “it” maybe never stop trying and utilize all resources!

  • robert says:

    Hello Tria this is Rob.. I’m so proud of you on and off the track.. The article was great.. When you run I watched and enjoyed the pride and desire you ran with and this article made me understand more how much the passion burned inside of you to excel in your craft..haven’t talked to you but I’m always in your corner.. Robert Baltimore

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