Annalisa works hard to realize her secret dream.

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Only the jackrabbits knew her secret.

The trailer door closed softly. Annalisa glanced through the window and saw her brother, Harrison, slipping out for his early morning run.

Annalisa pulled the soft covers up under her chin and thought about Harrison running on this chilly October morning. He had been a strong runner since he was a little boy, but now he was one of the top high school runners in New Mexico. Harrison’s coach was looking into scholarships for him. Annalisa knew that Harrison secretly dreamed of going to college.

Annalisa had dreams of her own. Even though she was only ten, she believed that she, too, had the potential to be an excellent runner. Someday she dreamed of having the strength to train alongside Harrison.

Annalisa liked to run along the dirt trails near their trailer at Mariano Lake. She ran for the sheer pleasure of it—to feel her heart pound as she raced up the steep, rocky goat trails. Sometimes she’d spy a long-eared jackrabbit effortlessly darting across the ground, and she would race it. Taking long strides, she would leap over the prickly-pear cactus, dodge the ankle-twisting rocks, and dart over dried-out sandy washes—only to be left in the jackrabbit’s dust.

Although Annalisa never won the race, she felt that the rabbits were challenging her to run faster, to realize her dream of running with her brother.

Annalisa kept her running a secret from her brother. She was afraid that she couldn’t match his stride and that she would only be a nuisance to him. The last thing she wished to do was to interfere with Harrison’s training. So Annalisa continued to sprint up and down the trails near her family’s trailer, but never in Harrison’s sight.

The weekend was approaching, and Annalisa looked forward to her family’s trip to Shiprock, New Mexico, to visit Great-Grandmother. Father’s grandmother lived in a traditional Navajo hogan with an earthen floor, even though Father and Uncle had built a small two-room house for her nearby. Great-Grandmother had tried living in the new house, but she said she felt more comfortable in her old hogan.

Annalisa always stayed in the hogan when they visited, while Harrison and her parents slept in the new house. Annalisa liked the smell of the piñon fire in the center of the hogan and the feel of the scratchy wool blankets when she curled up on the cot.

She and Great-Grandmother would sit up late discussing the new lambs in the corral, a rug that was on the loom, or a movie Annalisa had seen on TV. This weekend Annalisa hoped she could talk to Great-Grandmother about her dream of running as swiftly as the jackrabbits.

The words rushed out.When Friday evening came, Annalisa and her family squeezed into their green pickup and headed out on the back roads toward Shiprock. The sun was already setting in the west, and the red rocks of the mesa glowed in the vibrant streaks of orange, red, pink, and purple stretching across the sky. It was dark by the time they arrived at Great-Grandmother’s hogan.

Annalisa spent the following morning doing chores with Great-Grandmother. In the afternoon she and Harrison watched a football game on TV in the new house, but Annalisa much preferred the quiet of Great-Grandmother’s hogan.

Later Great-Grandmother fixed some Navajo herb tea and mutton stew for dinner while Annalisa mixed the dough for her favorite treat—fry bread.

As the stew simmered, Great-Grandmother carefully placed large circles of dough in a pan of bubbling oil. Annalisa studied the old woman’s face. To Annalisa, Great-Grandmother was beautiful. She was warm and worn and comfortable. They were at ease in their conversation and in their silence.

Slowly and quietly, Annalisa started to tell Great-Grandmother about her running. She explained how she felt with her hair flying in the wind and her strong legs pumping until her heart felt it would burst. The words rushed out, and Annalisa’s face shone with excitement.

Great-Grandmother sat very still, listening. When Annalisa finally finished, there was a twinkle in Great-Grandmother’s eye. Annalisa wasn’t the only one with a secret to share, Great-Grandmother said. When she was a small girl, she had also found joy in dashing up and down the mesas. She had been proud to be the fastest of all the girls in the family. “Keep trying to run faster and farther,” she told Annalisa. “It’s a good dream.”

Great-Grandmother drew a map with her finger on the dirt floor to show Annalisa an old goat trail that led to an enormous red rock on the side of the mesa. Years ago, Great-Grandmother had run to this very spot with all her cousins. Annalisa studied the map. She vowed to wake up with the sun and make the journey to this special place.

The sound of the old rooster crowing outside the door woke Annalisa. It was already daylight. Annalisa felt for her shoes and her sweat suit and sleepily left the hogan.

Her annoyance with herself for oversleeping dissolved as she discovered the worn goat trail that Great-Grandmother had described. The first leg of the trail was fairly flat, allowing Annalisa to run easily. She imagined her great-grandmother moving along the same trail years ago.

Then the trail steepened into a rocky uphill climb. Weeds choked the trail, grabbing at her sweat pants. Annalisa didn’t slow her pace. She kept her eyes on the huge sandstone rock directly above her on the edge of the mesa top, shining in the morning sun. It had to be the one that Great-Grandmother had described.

Somehow, knowing that it was Great-Grandmother’s own special place made this run different from any other. Annalisa pushed her straight black hair away from her face and pressed on toward the rock.

A few ravens flew off noisily as Annalisa scrambled up the side of the rock and finally rested at the top. The view was magnificent.

Annalisa could clearly see Great-Grandmother’s hogan, with dozens of sheep grazing near it, and off in the distance, the rock formation known as Shiprock. She felt her blood racing as she took in the timeless beauty around her.

Suddenly she heard a rustling sound below her on the rugged trail. Annalisa held her breath as a black-haired young man deftly climbed the remaining steps to the special rock.

It was Harrison! She hadn’t even heard him behind her. Only slightly winded, he eased himself onto a smooth section of the sandy red rock. He took a moment to survey the beauty of the scene below him, then grinned knowingly at Annalisa.

“You’ve been keeping a secret, little sister,” he teased. “You’re as surefooted as a mountain goat on that rocky trail. How did you ever find this great place?”

She felt her blood racing as she took in the view.Harrison smiled as she told him Great-Grandmother’s secret. Then he said, “Why don’t we run back together?”

Annalisa sighed happily as she and Harrison started down, quickly picking their way among the slippery rock footholds. Together they leaped over the prickly bushes, pushing harder to maintain their speed in the soft, sandy spots. They ran in a rhythmic stride, each one enjoying the company of the other. Joyfully, Annalisa led the way to the hogan, feeling as free-spirited and swift as her old friend the jackrabbit.