She always knew she should run. As a young girl and well before she was told she couldn't, she took such delight in running! The feeling of the wind rushing by her face and the burn in her chest as she ran and ran and ran... It was heaven! But alas, running wasn't considered to be lady like! Particularly for a girl of her station! So as she grew from a little girl into a young woman the social pressures mounted and she learned to suppress her need for running to that of a slow walk. Walking first to school until acceding to her mother's wish and driving... and for a few years, blissfully out of reach, she walked to class while in college, and of course she walked to the alter... Why she even walked to the car that took her to the hospital where she would have her two children, and every time she walked, short as it was, she sadly remembered her need and love of running.
One day, the kids at school, her husband at work, the old need simply became too much... So she drove to a park in a distant town, put on her trainers and took to her heels. Alas time is cruel and it will take back those things which are not used, and so it was with her! Her once limber legs had grown stiff and her lungs ached after only a few hundred yards... But beneath the stiffness and her gasping for breath, her limbs weakly whispered... run... run... run! So she went back to the same little park the next day and the next and the next each day after that! Pushing herself each time just a little further, a little faster as her body slowly adapted again to the running...
Then came the day she had been dreading... The day when she had to tell her husband what it was she had been doing these past few months. Despite her diligent care and her attempts to hide her running, she had been seen by one of the neighbors! With the small size of their social circle it wouldn't be long before he found out! So sick to her stomach she tried to make it as painless for him as possible... She fixed him a wonderful meal and all through it she lauded him for his selfless work in taking such good care of her and the children! Prattling on about what a great husband and father he was... but in the end, there really wasn't a good way to say it, so she just said it.
"Honey? I've taken up running"
To say he was shocked by this outrageous pronouncement was an understatement! He sputtered, bellowed and stormed, Why hadn't he given her everything? What could she possibly lack for that she would embarrass him so! I really don't think it mattered what she said at this point, as lost as he was in his anger, berating her again and again for being a fool and an imbecile! Still, despite the horrible pain he was inflecting she knew she could never stop running. This was who she was and she had to run... or she knew she would die! Needless to say that night she slept alone! Just as she would till the day he left her...
Telling her mother was even harder, Her mother after all had tried so hard to make her life better than her own had been.. Sparing no expense and doing all she could to make her daughter into the perfect wife! She worked and slaved so that her daughter would become this lovely and delicate flower of womanhood, fluent in all the social graces and the tasks which are expected of women! All of which she did with style and ablomb. She knew she had been good clay and she had indeed become the perfect woman in all respects! So for her to take up something so... so... unseemly and... well common was beyond the pale! But unseemly or common as it might be, she would not and could not be deterred... She had to run!
Her mother, feeling totally betrayed after all she had given her daughter, as had her husband and the rest of the family, turned her back on her. Leaving this lovely hot house flower homeless, childless, and all alone out in the cold! Seeped in pain and trying to make her way in a world she had no experience in, she vowed to do what she must do! She ran! While food might be in short supply at times, as was often a place to live, still she had to run... Each and every day she was taking it further and faster... The pain from the loss of her children, her world and her family driving her on to do her best... Oh my yes! Was the price for her to run high? By comparison a pound of flesh would have been next to nothing of what had been asked of her! But the need to run simply could not be tamed... She had to run!
She ran through the dead of winter. Fighting the cold that sank into her bones and made them ache, just as she ran in the heat of summer whiles the heat from the pavement burning and blistering her feet. But free at last, there was no pain too great to deter her so on she ran... longer, further, faster... she ran and she ran...and she ran!
She felt she had wasted so many years of her life in denying this need and who she was! Though it had cost her more dearly than any could possibly know...still, bit by bit she took back what was lost! In fact she even bettered it on occasion... First she ran alone, then with great trepidation she ran with a few others who talked her into running in the local races which she to her surprise she won! Then came the larger ones... She had to work all the harder now but in time she would go from jsut finishing to placing to winning, even there she was winning! But win or not, what was important was that she ran and she ran! Not because she had something to prove or even that it had cost her so dearly, but because she simply had to run!
In time she even made the Olympic team! That certainly wasn't at all what she set out to do... She had run simply because she had to run, but having paid the terrible price she did to run, she knew she had to give it her all... After all, she had put everything she had on the line to do this! She had sacrificed mightily but at long last the efforts were acknowledged, an offer given, and so here she was... An equal among the best of the best... She was a Runner!
The day of the event finally came... The gun went off and she ran... Oh how she ran! Running harder than she ever had before! Pushing herself far beyond whate ven she thought even she could do! Then in utter disbelief that it could even happen, the pack quickly receding behind her! With her heart racing, she was doing what everyone in her life told her was impossible... Despite their nay-saying, despite the struggles and the pain, she was not just running... She was winning!
There! Up ahead! With her energy all but spent, she caught sight of the ribbon! Oh My God! It can't be can it? But it was! There it was and that ribbion was hers and hers alone! The pay off for all the years of work and pain! She had given up her family and her social standing, she had accepted grinding poverty and the loss of her children and all of that was just about to bear fruit beyond her wildest dreams... She was that day, the best runner in the world!
But there, ahead of her, just a few feet from the ribbon, another "runner' stepped from the crowd, followed by another and another and another! In fact, it seemed the closer she got to the line the larger this crowd of "runners" grew! This was insane! Who were these people? Where were the judges? What could possibly convince someone that they had the right to enter this race ahead of her and only a mere feet from the finish? This was madness!
To her horror these "runners" took her ribbon and crossed the line ahead of her, leaving her well back of this new pack as she crossed the line... She wasn't the first now! Why she wasn't even in the top ten! "But but but" she stammered to herself as a huffing and puffing three hundred pound woman was lead over to the awards stand to receive her medal! That is, after three stout men pushing and pulling got her up there of course! The same was true for the second and third place "winners" too! Each a veritable bag of lard and each unable to even get up onto the stand by themselves! Yet they they were! Standing one two three with their medals round their necks! Grinning like fools while the audience by their applause signaled the approval of this charade! She felt her head swim... This was right out of some grotesque nightmare! It was she who had run this race not they! She and the other women who ran the race were now lost in the cheering crowd! Wasn't it they who had trained for this? Wasn't it they who had paid the blood price to even get here, much less to win? So who then were these people on the awards stands? These "running" imposters claiming her stage. getting her accolades and the acknowledgement of her sacrifice! Why one of them, upon getting down from the stand had to promptly set her large derrière upon her electric scooter as the walk back to their car was... well... too strenuous!
TOO STRENUOUS? TOO STRENUOUS? She was beside herself now! These people did nothing but stuff the last crisp into their mouths, down the last of their big gulp sodas then waddle across the finish line and it was they who were being hailed as the champions?
Too much! It was all too much! Alone and distraught she caught the bus back to town that night... Disbelief crowding out all other thoughts... Next to tears at what had been taken from her so rudely she entered her small shared apartment and turned on the TV.... There they were again! On every channel! The grinning "winners" A whole bus load of couch potatoes claiming that because they had wanted it, they were owed the work she had done to reach that finish line when they'd done none of it! Reporters idiotically and eagerly thrusting their hungry mikes into these pudgy faces as the imposters gladly accepted their victory and extolled the fact that "one really doesn't have to actually run the race to win the race!"
It was all too much! So she reached over turned off the set and went to bed! Distraught or not, over the next few days, then weeks and months, she went back to her same old routine... Her getting up at the crack of dawn well before her long day at work to put in five or so miles. running whenever and wherever she could ! Running on the weekends and even at nights when she could! She ran... she ran and she ran. She ran just as she had ever since that day she set foot in the park that first time.. giving it her all... And always, just to get that feeling the joy of the wind in her face and in her limbs stretching to reach the road!
Meanwhile the winners to that race and the next and the next became media darlings! Traveling round to colleges and being paid well to give lectures on how racing and running were not really connected and that all that mattered was in getting a good place to stand really really close to the line so that it was easy to cross! In fact they renamed the sport! After all, as they saw it, running as a word was... too... well... aggressive! Besides "running" really didn't describe what it was they were doing to win these races! They weren't runners they were "locomotes" and Locomote was a much better word than running cause it includes everyone who moves upright in some form or other It includes all those who walk, amble or even those who roll... and of course, so very graciously it even includes those few benighted souls who still, for reasons that elude, run!
Why they even started their own lobby in DC... The NALA The National Association of Locamotives of America! After all there were still many many race-ists out there who thought that these race things should require one to run in them the whole way, rather than saunter, sashay or stroll cross the line! Their rally cry became "We are the locomotes! We're loud and we're proud! Get use to it!" (shouted only in short gentle bursts of course as to do other wise required way too much breath!)
For a while she protested the insanity, but it was often only her weak voice against the legions of locamotes and they readily shouted her down as a hater and a running elitist! Why it seemed they were suddenly everywhere! You could hardly turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing a locamote begin featured! They even organized special conventions of locamotes all over the nation! They would gather in these grand hotels for a long weekend of slow ambling, jaunting and circumambulation with lots and lots of finish lines simply everywhere so no one ever felt left out of the winning! Aftewards there would be huge lavish feasts cause we all know that getting out of a chair is so darn much work! Once sated the feasts would be followed by rousing inspirational speeches given by the newly minted Phd's who'd just gotten their degrees in locomotive studies! Eachof which was in essence a long rambling thesis's about how everyone is a locamote in someway somehow!
Mean while, she just kept on doing what she has been doing before all the fray. She ran and she ran. Doing exactly what she had done before simply because she had to do it! And if on occasion upon hearing herself called a locamote and she got angry and kicked a news box or TV... well... try to be kind cause you know how those runners are!