Learning to Conquer Life by Conquering ‘El Diablo’


Taking the lead, runner Sarah Luby (187) paces herself for a hopeful and well-earned win.

Sarah Luby, Contributing Writer

Bowdoin. The toughest course my team and I will ever face. I lower myself into racing position: my legs are spread almost to my full stride; my body is lowered close to the ground; my head is focused straight ahead. I wait for the gun to go off.

Running is my life; I breathe and dream it. I know every course down to the tiniest details: muddy, sandy, plain hard dirt. Once that gun goes off, I forget everything. When I race, I concentrate on my breathing, how sore I am, how close people are to me. When I race, all I see is hills, an obstacle needing to be tackled. I am oblivious to the trees, the cheering teams, even the orange flags: all I see are white arrows.

The gun goes off. In the past I made the mistake of taking the lead across the Bowdoin 400 Dash of open field. Now I know better. The more experienced runners let the younger runners fight it out in the front, which allows the seasoned runners to save their energy. I can barely remember the mistakes I made in freshman year, but the one I remember clearly is that I never fought quite hard enough. In junior year, I learned a lot from a single hill, El Diablo, the steepest, unevenest and narrowest hill at Bowdoin.

I look up, and there is a girl close by. She is trying to take me on the hill. The older girls know to keep their pace and not to let anyone pass them uphill. The hardest part is to never slow down; how tempted I am to slow the pace and rest for just one second. In running, a second is life or death. I will not rest. I grind my teeth and charge up the hill. I can see the peak; I cross it, and destroy the girl following me. I pick up the speed. I need to make up for lost time.

I have gained so much experience from competing at Bowdoin. I know the best places to pass, the spots where runners quit, and the spots where runners become champions and conquer this course.

Running downhill, I lengthen my stride and pass the girl ahead of me. This is when the race counts the most. This is the easiest part, but it is also the worst. I am slowly becoming surrounded by a pack. I know I might lose or get boxed in, but I will fight. This lesson I learned on my own.

I enter the horseshoe with 800 meters to go. One final incline of pure gravel – all runners know this is the worst part. I know I can’t save my energy at this point. It’s all out. Runners try to trick me into thinking they have more energy, but they are wrong. I reach the peak; a girl is close behind me. She thinks she can take me. I didn’t come this far to fail now. My team is relying on me. I am exhausted and sore, and I know they are, too. As long as I am racing, I will give it my all. I haven’t fought this hard for this long to lose.

I lengthen my stride, and I fight with the other girls alongside me. We all want the same thing. I fight. I give it my all.

There is a girl who is just about to finish before I am. I know it’s too late to pass her; there isn’t enough land to cover. Some girls might give up and accept their fate. I will not. I can’t pass the girl, but I can close the gap.

I don´t get her this time, I don’t know who she is, and I probably won’t see her again, but I walk away pleased, knowing I gave it my all.