Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
You wait. You make it though the Call to the Post. You walk to the track. You have waited a year for this moment. You have waited a lifetime for this moment. You have invested your soul, your family, your entire well being into this moment. There is only one goal in mind. The finish line. One year ago, you came in second. Second was good but not good enough. You want to win. This time – It has to be THIS time. There is chatter everywhere and you smile and ignore it. You try to wear your game face. Everyone has something to say right now and you turn your head and focus on the starting gate.
As the crowd roars, you can’t hear the track announcer. It doesn’t really matter though because you are so focused on the horse and jockey. How did he break? Where is he? Are the ears forward? Is he in a good position? What’s the pace? Is he inside? Is he outside? Everything else in your world stops right now. You are unaware of the helicopters and airplanes overhead. You haven’t noticed that you are sunburned. You don’t even know that the sun is shining. There are people pressed against you in every direction and everyone is yelling.
As the horses make their way through the final turn, your hand shakes as it holds the binoculars. Where is he? Who is next to him? And down the stretch they come! It’s time. It’s TIME! You have faith. You have worked so hard. Your body leans forward as your heart pounds. You are willing them to the finish line. It has to be now. You unleash a scream. NOW! It has to be NOW!
And it’s over. Did you win? Photo finish??? Time to wait. The past two minutes flew by in mere glimpses of time. Now each second has an anchor attached to it as you wait for the results. The crowd has gone from screaming to murmuring. Everyone is focused on the scoreboard for the results as the large word “PHOTO” taunts you. You look back to the horse and jockey who look good across the track. And you wait. Again, you wait.
Suddenly there is an ocean of sound crashing into your senses. It happened! You WON! Your hands shoot to the sky. You leap forward. You scream. You jump. You howl. You smile. And you hug. You hug and hug and hug. Your body is propelled in a wild set of rapids as you tumble down the stairs to the Winner’s Circle. Your cell phone is making all kinds of noise with calls and texts coming in. Every person near you is yelling, trying to shake your hand or hug you. Somehow you make it down the stairs without falling for you can’t feel your legs. And the gate to the Winner’s Circle beckons you and magically opens as you are propelled in.
Somehow you find your way to the track. You are being tugged and pulled in all directions as you look for your horse and jockey. You shake your jockey’s hand and you want to hug the horse but you know better. You don’t mind the dirt. TV cameras and photographers are everywhere taking your picture and talking to you. Words become sounds. Questions become snippets. You try to answer with grace and dignity while inside you are still jumping up and down. You feel the trophy in your hands and pass it to everyone to share the moment. As you stand in the Winner’s Circle, you look up at the people. You open your heart and take it all in. You hear the name of your horse and feel the love and pride of the fans.
Your horse and jockey arrive and you stop to stare with your mouth open. This is the finest horse on the planet and you LOVE the world right now. Your heart is bursting with pride. The horse is wearing purple and gold flowers. Petals float through the air in a magical moment. Smile. It’s time to smile. You see so many cameras and you can’t figure out which one you are supposed to be looking at. The jockey slips off the horse, pulls on a baseball hat and is suddenly by your side. Did the horse leave already? How can this be going so fast? The interviews conclude and you are surrounded by the love of your friends, family and colleagues.
You kind of feel your legs moving. It’s time for the after race interviews. The chaperone moves your group up the stairs. You try to make sure that you don’t trip. Somehow, a glass of champagne makes it into your hand. The press room is filled with reporters, writers and photographers. Their cameras make a soft barrage of clicking as each person of your team enters and sits down. You hope no one notices your shaking hand as you sit your glass of champagne on the table in front of you without spilling it. There is just too much to feel right now.
You sit down and try to gather your thoughts. Your jockey winks at you. The room quiets and the moderator makes the introductions. In an instant you are back to where it all began. The journey of a lifetime with a horse of a lifetime. There are so many things you want to say right now about the people and the path to this moment.
This was more than a win for everyone involved. It was a lesson in perseverance, trust and belief. The ability to carry on despite the whispers of others. How you maintained a belief that you were on the right track and hung in there through the stormy times. And when you lost, figuring out a way to get back in the race of life and try again.
And now? Now you are now a Winner! You have visited the Winner’s Circle of life. It’s time to celebrate. It is such an amazing feeling. Today belongs to the history books. Tomorrow? Tomorrow a new race will begin but you will carry yourself as a winner.