Personal Best

By DeeAnn B. Haroldsen

DeeAnn B. Haroldsen lives in Utah, USA.

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I was never going to win; I just didn’t want to come in last again.

feet on running track

Photo illustration by Leslie Nilsson

After taking last place in the 880-yard race for the fourth meet in a row, the enthusiasm I once felt for track was beginning to fade. It wasn’t just losing; it was the fact that I could barely finish my races.

One night while reading the Doctrine and Covenants, I read section 89, the Word of Wisdom. Verse 20 says, “And [ye] shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” That was a promise I wanted. I didn’t smoke or drink, but I remembered the coach saying that consuming soda pop and sugary foods could make breathing difficult in longer races. I decided to cut back on them and also thought I’d try eating something besides hamburgers every day for lunch.

With those thoughts in mind, I knelt by my bed in prayer. I remember promising the Lord I would keep the Word of Wisdom and stick to my diet so that He could bless me to do my best.

I had my temptations. My friends were doing fun activities after school while I ran the bleachers around the football field. My brother and sister slept in while I woke up early to jog. A cute guy offered to buy me a soda at lunch, and I had to tell him I preferred milk. And some friends decided to sit and talk rather than do our exercises and weightlifting in gym, forcing me to do my workouts alone. I found inner strength from keeping the commitment I had made to myself and to the Lord.

The day of regionals was a warm day. We were divided into two heats according to our previous times, so I was in the slow heat. This was the first race I had felt good about, win or lose, since I started track this year.

“Runners, take your mark!”

“Get set.”

The starter’s pistol went off. I sprang forward, each step in unison with the rest of the pack. I was holding fourth place, but the rest of the runners were gaining on me. A thought came to mind: “I have kept the Word of Wisdom; I CAN DO THIS!”

I focused on third place and pushed myself harder. New energy exploded in me, and I was gaining on them. The runner in second place was only a few feet ahead, so I reached out with all my mind and body.

The girl in first place was starting down the straightway just as I was turning the last bend. She was 5 feet ahead of me with 20 feet to go. With all the energy I could muster, I reached and stepped—go, go, GO!

I raised my arms and crossed the finish line first. A natural high glowed within me. My time was slower than all the runners in the fast heat, so I didn’t get to participate in the state track meet, but I knew the feeling of running and not being weary and of finishing a race and not feeling faint. I understood then what was meant by “a principle with promise” (D&C 89:3). I knew it was true when the Lord said, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say” (D&C 82:10).