She runs

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 thumping mantra repelling all but fleeting thoughts. Must write a letter to Council about those people that leave their bins across the path.

She runs. Pushes through darkness and pain, anger powering 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, required cortisone in one traitorous knee.
She presses on, hungry for forward movement. For leaving things behind.

She ran. Submitted an entry form online. Committed herself to a date, seeking run rather than fun.
She arrived early. Held her space at the start line, twitchy and impatient. Survived the melee at the gun, striding out to find her own space.
She maintained a steady pace for 15km then surged, letting her furies drive her home.
Broke the ribbon, depleted but triumphant. Not second best.