Just a few more steps. A few. Puff. More.
My legs were red with cold, my face was red with exhaustion, as I continued dragging my aching limbs up the track to the top.
I’ll stop at the top. Just briefly. I’ll stop and take a breath. It will be nice to breathe again.
A little bit more. A little bit more. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…
I reached down deep and pulled out some guts to keep going, glancing at my cardiotrainer record to boost my resolve. I’d almost completed 4km! Not a bad effort for the first run in ages. But I mustn’t stop now.
Must. NOT. Stop.
I pull my wretched body up through the mud and stumble over the tree roots at the top of the path where it opens into a residential car park. As I run out of the woods and into the car park a round old man steps out from his house and lights up a cigarette.
I can see, even from this distance, that he enjoys a good whiskey or twenty. His cheeks are stained with the red of a thousand broken blood vessels. He is almost completely bald and hasn’t shaved for a week or so but even his bristles are too lazy to plump into a beard. He looks about eight and a half months pregnant. I suspect this is his exercise for the day. His healthy break from watching the football eating cold sausage rolls and working his way through a bottle of Jack.
I stop and draw in the long deep breath I’d promised myself as I ran up that steep path. It felt good. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling healthy and fit. My mind skipped over the less than exemplorary diet of the past week. It leapfrogged over the wine consumed, the chocolate inhaled..Instead it focused on how fit I still was, how self-disciplined I was. How good it feels to have some release from the grinding stress.
And then a gravelly voice interrupted my self-admiration.
“That’s it. Good girl! Keep going and you’ll have all that weight off in no time.”
Said he. The fat man; rolling the cigarette and watching me through beady eyes.
“Oh yes little by little”.
I laughingly threw it back at him and started off down the road as fast as my exhausted legs could carry me. But inside I was livid. How very dare he comment! And ‘why am I a good girl’ for going for a run? Am I a ‘good gir’l too when I count my calories? Or if I refrain from eating dessert with the rest of the family? Or if I stick my fingers down my throat?
Why does my weight and diet infer my morality and spiritual purity?
And why only for women?
I ground my teeth all the way home.