Fast isn't Free

My foot smacks the ground, the hard pavement slapping the worn soles of the shoes that are the only thing separating me from my goal. The wind rushes around my head, my hair tied back into a ponytail, the gusts whipping wisps of my hair, and whispering for me to push forward. My arms swing back and forth, and back and forth, pushing against my ribs, as the sun cuts through the cold bitter air. I pant.

I despise running. Even when I was little, and fast, I never volunteered to participate in the exercise. The sharp pain it brings to lungs and shins and heart. I always ask: is it worth it? Not for me, I tell myself. I find every possible way to avoid running: dance class, bike class, weight lifting, or swimming. If someone would have told me four years ago that I would want to run today, I would have told them to get lost. To me, running was a novel that sat on my shelf but never opened. I avoided running like the plague. However, the one thing present in my life that I want to be different is my ability to run.

I scoffed at the idea of participating in cross country, but now that my best friend, who had never run before, finished three years of cross country, I wish I had given it the same chance she did. Toned legs and strong lungs now inhabit her body, and her energy level is that of a fierce kitten. The feelings, of concrete passing under my toes and reaching a destination without the crutch of modern technology, fill me with achievement. I try to run, and I push myself until my lungs are broken toys scattered across the front lawn. But I fail, and revert back to dance class, swimming, and weights. But it creeps back up on me that thought of breaking free and running fast. It strikes me again and again until I give in and try running once more.

I pant until my eyes water and the wind feels sharp against my forehead. My legs wobble, teetering on the edge of numbness, and my arms feel like Jell-O on a plate. I stumble. My body thrusts forward, flinging my arms against my legs and my head to my knees as my brain longs for blood to bring it oxygen. I look up. The sun, once sharp and cutting, warms my back and legs, and dries the sweat that slides down my nose. The trees glisten from the misty morning remnants of dew. My thoughts wander as I take in where I stand; the beautiful scenery. Never did I know that the words of that unopened novel would be so rewarding. I glance right.

“Nice…” I wait for an answer “work.” she spat out in-between breaths.

Three bottles of water and a sweaty hug later, we make our way to the end of the dock on the bay, with me, the same friend who asked me to run with her all those years ago, her standing offer finally off to a start. I cannot help but wonder how fast I could run if I would have said yes to her the first time. But my resolve is not about what I could have could have done, or that I despise running because I cannot do it fast, but that I continue in my pursuit of success despite my lack of natural talent. Truthfully, now, I feel as though I could run forever, chasing the sunrise and the freedom.





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