Running

The bus bumped and jostled its way along the route, lurching its passengers forward each time it braked for a stop. She was staring out the window, one arm bracing herself against the seat in front of her, watching the neighbourhood pass by. It had been another long, tiring day and her back ached from the hours of tedious data entry.

Only months ago she had been an ambitious over-achiever in the theatre industry, but it all got too much for her. The in-fighting; the constant struggle to please the financiers (who knew nothing about creativity); and of course the long, long hours. She’d left it all for a simple administration job but she couldn’t take it anymore. She was so bored. And unhappy.

The bus slowed with the traffic and pulled up alongside a young woman running on the footpath. She looked relaxed, happy and healthy. I remember when I used to run.

The traffic moved on and she got off at her stop, rushing home to find her running gear.

She ran down the footpath as dusk turned into night and felt her joints sink into place. Her muscles were warming and had started to stretch, releasing that long-forgotten feeling. The street lights were few and far between, each one cutting an orange prism along the street in front of her.

Just to the end of this block. She easily made it and kept going. She didn’t want to stop running. Not wanting to lose this feeling she didn’t push herself too hard but her legs kept propelling her. She increased her pace a little. You can walk for a bit if you make it to the lights? But she passed the lights and kept running. Her face relaxed into a smile. She hadn’t felt this good in a long time.

Cool air filling her lungs, she blinked slowly, taking in the surroundings. The sky was a royal blue with the night’s first stars starting to appear. Gardens of jasmine and lillies mingled with evening cooking aromas – olive oil, onions, curry sauce – as the houses passed by.

She turned a corner and was now running towards her shadow, her long ponytail swinging back and forth. One! Two! Three, Four. She’d found her breath now and increased her speed, keeping the rhythm as she watched her shadow’s head remain steady and torso perform a perfect, relaxed running technique.

She always ran in silence. Never one to wear earphones as it was, she particularly enjoyed the meditative nature of running – her feet and arms working in sequence; her mind focusing on nothing but the path ahead. She liked to be aware of her surroundings too.

Her shoulder started to ache. We feel great! Her legs cried. She pushed on up the incline. The pain spread down into her chest. You’re almost there! Her back said. Her muscles hadn’t felt this good in a long time. She reassured her shoulder and made it to the end of the block to catch her breath.

She wanted to keep going but the sky was now indigo, almost black and she was conscious that she was on her own and the streets were almost empty. She decided to turn around. Can we run again? Her legs begged. Not yet, give me a minute? Her shoulder still ached. She walked briskly down the incline to the traffic lights and waited for the last of the peak hour traffic to pass. Running all the way home she realised how much she had needed this run – the first thought she’d had since setting foot to pavement. She put the thought out of her mind and just enjoyed.

Once at home she sat down on the couch to watch the news and again a wave of endorphins ran over her. She looked at her sneakers which she had carefully placed on the floor next to her. Right, tomorrow night – it’s a date!

(c)2010 Sharon Paterson Smith

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