She runs. More than a shuffle. Less than a sprint.
Steady. That’s what her father would have called her pace.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” he used to say, always with the imputation that she was doing things wrong. Rushing.
It became the quest of her childhood, to steadily win his affection.
She runs. Away from her apathetic, underachieving children. Away from her husband with his grins ground out of him.
Her father used to smile at her sister. Chuckle even. There was never any question as to his favourite daughter.
He preferred the hurdler, not the middle distance runner.
Steady didn’t seem to count.
She runs. Past houses and gardens. Along the bland streets where she lives.
Past friendships that faltered. Teachers who didn’t bring out the best in her kids. Injustices snagged on picket fences.
One foot, then the other, her breathing a mantra repelling all but fleeting thoughts.
Must write a letter to Council about how late those people leave their Christmas lights flickering.
She runs. Pushes through darkness and pain. Uses the anger to power each stride.
Running has changed her body, slashed two dress sizes from her hips, carved away her chest.
It’s put steel in her glutes and calves, cortisone in one traitorous knee.
She presses on, hungry for forward movement. Flight now, fight later.
She ran. Submitted an entry form online. Committed herself to a date, seeking run rather than fun.
Arrived early and held her space at the start line, twitchy and impatient. Survived the melee at the gun, staying left and low.
Maintained a steady pace for 10km then surged, letting her furies drive her home.
Broke the ribbon, depleted but triumphant. Not second best.