Matt Billings: Volunteer and Athlete

As the rain falls on the cold and brisk October morning, New York is blissfully unaware of the whole new world that I am in. I am surrounded by 12,000 other runners. You can hear the complaining and agony of people all around as they are preparing for a miserable run with unfavorable conditions. Me, on the other hand, I am in the zone. I have isolated myself from the crowd, I’ve even ignored the multiple phone calls from people attempting to wish me good luck. I am completely and utterly focused.

Matt Billings, 15-17, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

Matt Billings, 15-17, La Salle Academy, New York, NY

I toe the start line with knots in my stomach, this is more than just a race for me. This is the accumulation of months of training for me to step back into the racing world, and I had every intention to step back in on a good note. The pressure for me was rising.

Moments before the start, everything slows down. I feel each rain droplet hitting me, I can feel the wind against my skin and the goosebumps starting to rise. It was at this instant that I knew I was ready. Every worry faded away as the trigger was being pulled, and off I went; to run each step of this grueling 13.1 mile race.

It’s now mile 8 and at the point I can feel my legs cramping and my lungs starting to burn. I no longer have feeling in my finger tips from the rain and the cold. I was almost ready to give up, but as I am thinking to myself “why, why am I doing this?” an alarm goes off in my head, “rise and shine”.

Its 5am and my hand can’t make it to the alarm clock before the voices in my head start telling me that it’s too early, too dark and too cold to get out of bed. My aching muscles lie still in rebellion pretending not to hear my brain commanding them to move. A legion of voices are shouting their unanimous permission for me to hit that snooze button and go back to dreamland. But I didn’t ask for their opinion.

matt-runningThe voice I have chosen to listen to is one of defiance. The voice that says there was a reason I set that alarm in the first place. The voice that says, “Welcome to the grind.”

These voices were the people of my community, my coworkers, and my friends unified and supportive of me. Telling me that I was insane, but brave for running 50-70 miles a week, for waking up at 5am to train in Central Park with my team, and for making the commitment to do this.

But the loudest voice that rings out to me was that of my students. From the cross country student-athlete that would challenge me to push myself just as much as I push him in the class to the students that came to watch me on that cold, brisk morning. I never realized, that as a volunteer, that my students would have such an impact on me.

With each step comes the decision to take another.  I am on my way now, but this is no time to dwell on how far I’ve come, but instead to reflect on where I am. To reflect on the how I have not only made an impact but how my students, my coworkers, and my community have made an impact on me. Take a moment to stop and let it all sink in.

Matt Billings is a second year LV serving at La Salle Academy in New York, NY.  He is a graduate of Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee.


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