Common App Essay for Stanford. It is my first draft and I would appreciate any critique/suggestions for my 2nd revision.
By the end of freshman year, my best mile in track was 6:40. Everyone else was well under six. I frequently finished last in races. I became convinced that my body wasn't built for sports, and that I simply wasn't athletic. At that point, I only stayed in track because running helped me stay in shape.
Or so I tried to tell myself.
It really bothered me. I usually would spend the last minute or so of each race not only straining to finish, but also feeling sorry for everyone else who had to wait for me to cross the finish line. I wanted to do better, but didn't quite know how.
During my sophomore year, I had not made much improvement either. I still had to return early from our off-campus distance runs, because I could not finish the full workout with the team. I was improving, but not at the rate I wanted. My time dwindled to a low six-minute by the end of that year.
My junior year, I finished my first race with a 5:53; a significant feat. I was finally under six with everyone else. It forced me to reconsider my perception of my athletic ability.
My attitude changed immensely. I began to realize that it wasn't that I couldn't finish those distance workouts, but that I was able to not finish them.
I returned with the team from each run thereafter.
I developed an emotional attachment to running, and it quickly turned into an obsession. I came to practice not because I wanted to shed a few pounds, but because I wanted to run. Running was the test of my new mindset that I could do whatever I put my mind to. If I could start with a modest mile time, and trim it down to something more extraordinary, then I believed there was nothing else I couldn't do.
My best time so far is 5:35. Although it was not the most impressive time on my team, it was quite an accomplishment to me. However, my greatest achievement was overcoming my old mindset, which stunted my growth as a runner. Previously when I began to hurt during a run, I would have eventually given up, because I hadn't yet trained myself to endure the pain. But my junior year, once I became determined to finish each workout with the team, my tolerance for pain increased.
This mindset-the mind's resistance to the body's desire to slow down or stop-applies not just to running, but almost anything in life. We cannot reach our full potential if we persist in our comfort zone. It is this perseverance and the determination to finish that leads to our successes.
This year I plan on ending my senior year with a sub-five minute mile. I know it's possible. I had finally overcome the last barrier-myself.