Running On Empty [Michaela]

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Running On Empty [Michaela]

Postby EtB » Thu Feb 19, 2015 9:11 am

Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/6/2015 2:02:35 AM) (2021267)

I'd passed the math test, and even done pretty well; enough to keep my grades where they needed to be so Coach wasn't forced to toss me off the team. I don't really think she would? But it's better not to take chances. I'd have to do something for Konrad.

Brownies always seem like an appropriate thank you, and I do know how to bake. More importantly, I know how to follow instructions. But none of that is what I'm doing now. Now, I am doing what I love maybe second-most in this world. The neighborhood where I live is poor, yes, but not especially bad. There are places much worse. I'm running through the streets, keeping a steady, even pace, my breathing deep but controlled. Running isn't really about speed. It's about rhythm and endurance. I'm a long distance runner; there's lots of people faster than me out there. What there isn't a lot of, is people who can keep my pace for as long as I can keep it. I'll never break speed records, like that Olympic sprinter. But I might break distance records one day.

That's a long way off.

In any case, running for me is a form of meditation. My mind clears, becomes a pool of clear, still water. That stillness is essential. Inner calm, once you get ahold of it, means outward relaxation -- and your body can do remarkable things when relaxed. It's the key to speed, endurance, all those things a runner needs. Tension is an athlete's enemy; not the worst enemy, to be sure, but one of a legion. Normally, before a run, like a meet or something, I'll take a few moments to find that stillness in me, and bring it forward. It's a thing I have always done, and it's as helpful in enduring my mother's drunken tirades as it is ignoring the burn of stressed muscles. Which, I note with some satisfaction, is in no way altered by my apparently freakish healing ability. Good. That would have taken all the joy out of it for me.

It was one of few joys I had anymore.

That inner stillness had come upon me without trying, too -- twice so far. In times of mental stress, it seems like it just reached up and seized me until the crisis passed. All thought evaporated, all worry and fear and tension melted. There was only what I could do, what I had to do, what needed doing. Once it passed, I was back to my usual panicky self.

Lilly had called me brave. I don't think she understood, but I wasn't about to argue with her. For all I know, she could be right. Wasn't that what courage was? Acting even though you're scared out of your mind? It was what I had done -- hell, even the phrasing seemed dead-on. I wasn't in my mind. Michaela Carter had checked out, please leave a message; I had been running more or less on autopilot. The same way I navigated these streets, while immersed in my inner contemplations.

More and more, I found myself chasing that stillness, pursuing that inner emptiness, because whenever I didn't, her eyes, her hair, her smell, would pop into my head at unexpected moments. Little details. It was annoying and distracting, and ludicrous besides. Even if I were willing to be the rags end of a rags-to-riches tale, things like that didn't happen. Waiting for someone else to pull you out of your circumstances meant passing on your circumstances to your kids. It was the one universal truth. It wasn't that if you wanted it done right, you had to do it yourself.

You had to do it yourself, if you wanted it done at all.


Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/6/2015 2:26:24 AM) (2021275)

I didn't look too closely at what else those thoughts might indicate. I was fifteen years old and in pursuit of an athletic career; I didn't have time for other interests between that, school, taking care of my mother and sometimes snapping a few pictures as I went along. I'd never even had a boyfriend. I'd just...never had the time. I did know about what some folks said about me; Veronica, who did relay, had taken me aside and explained -- in a state of embarrassment nearly as painful for me to witness as it was for her to endure -- exactly what all those rumors meant. It didn't really bother me. None of the people who flapped their lips knew anything to talk about, and those who did knew there wasn't anything to talk about. It was all pointless. All I wanted to do was run.

In a vague way, I understood there was more. My mother had explained it, but her own bitterness and intoxication had made the subject hard for her. Mom had been a model once, long ago. Before me. No one wanted a pregnant model, though, and while being a single mother wasn't the terrible thing it was when my mom was a kid, it didn't help her any. She wasn't even sure who the father was, which I wasn't sure I would have admitted if it were me. But she'd lost everything for me, and even her beauty was gone now. It was a terrible thing, to be able to see its ashes in her worn, tired face. There were days I couldn't bring myself to look at her. I'm pretty sure she felt the same way about me.

So, that for beauty, which I didn't have anyway, at least not in my own eyes. I was tall, leanly built; clearly a girl, if only barely. Hair of an uninteresting dirty blonde, skin darkened by sun from all my time running, eyes -- my most striking feature, I'll admit. My eyes were a deep golden brown, a color my mother compared to bourbon -- she would -- and I thought of as closer to maple syrup, the clear kind, or maybe dark honey. They must be a legacy from my unknown father, because my mom's eyes are green.

I pass the three mile mark without noticeable slowing or effort, though the familiar ache is starting to set in. I can go much, much further before it becomes unbearable. My thoughts are wandering like the meandering way I've taken through the town. I pass by the school, darkened at night and silent. By the four mile mark, I'll want to turn around; I can do more, but I'd rather not have to take the bus in the morning. I have a routine: the school has a shower area for its sports teams, and I run to school early, grab a shower, and am ready for class. It keeps me in shape and lets me avoid the bus. I'm not a fan of crowds in the first place; packed into a bus would be intolerable. I don't even like it when the team has to ship out for State.

God, we're doing Nationals this year. I have to run against the best in the entire country. I almost lose my rhythm at the thought, then find it again, forcing the ripples to still, the water to smooth. Well. We'll find out who's best. That's what these competitions are for, right? But if I do well at Nationals? It means opportunities. It means sponsorships.

It means finally not having to worry about what I'll do when Mom finally drinks herself into her grave.


Michaela Carter (Eric the Bard)
(2/6/2015 2:36:53 AM) (2021278)

I don't stop at four miles.

It's five miles from the end of my driveway to the county courthouse, and there I force myself to stop, though I don't just come to a dead halt. Instead, I pace in circles, letting myself relax without letting the muscles cool down. I would have gone further. I could have gone further. I might even, conceivably, have been able to push six, or seven miles, and still been able to run home -- a total of, say, fourteen miles. But I ran to school and back today, and when I get home from this -- assuming I make it all the way on my own two feet -- that will have been sixteen miles, by itself, in one day. That doesn't sound like a very great deal over the course of a day. I do six miles every day -- with something like six, seven hours of rest in between. I'm not required to take PE because of track. Running an additional ten, without rest, on top of that, was ridiculous for someone my age. It was a marathon style thing, something most people did once in their lifetimes.

I drink more water. Hydration is vital. Water keeps you alive as much as breath. I'm taking deep, even breaths, pacing in wide circles. That thought woke something in me -- this is something most people do once in their lifetimes. Well. Sixteen miles in a day.I turn my way back home, and pick up the pace, finding that stillness and running into it, smooth even strides and deep, even breaths, my face determined, my muscles only now beginning to burn.

Sixteen miles was a good start.

((Fin.))
EtB
 
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