It is late afternoon on Christmas Day. I am feeling sleepy. I think about closing my eyes and drifting off…
But Andy comes in and asks, “Do you want to come for a walk?”
A walk or a sleep? I sigh. I should go for a walk.
“OK,” I answer pulling myself out of the chair.
I grab some shorts and a T shirt and my trainers.
“I was thinking of a stroll, not a hard walk,” says Andy. “No need to change clothes.”
“We might as well make it a good walk,” I answer. Andy shrugs his shoulders and goes looking for his own exercise gear.
We head down the street to the playing fields and then turn onto a track through the bush.
“Shall we run along the downhill and flat stretches and walk the rest?” I suggest.
“Run? You want to run?” Andy looks surprised.
I suddenly have an urge to run, run like the wind, my hair streaming out behind me. I want to put my body into top gear and feel it come alive. But can I still run?
I used to be a runner. Many years ago, Andy and I ran kilometre after kilometre every evening after work. I remember rhythmically pounding along the footpaths, my feet flying, my arms pumping, thinking I could run forever. It was a wonderful, exhilarating feeling.
I want to recapture that feeling. I long to fly along that endless bush track between the gum trees and not stop.
And so I run.
Along the flat track I jog and then down the steep slope. I pick up my feet to avoid the loose stones as I leap from boulder to boulder. Soon I am gasping for breath and my mouth is dry so I slow to a walk. I am sensible. I could run forever but the further we go, the longer it will take to climb back up the hill. And we are expected home in time for tea.
So we stop and turn round and head back up the track, the sun in our faces. Soon I am hot and sweaty. The run down was easy compared with the hard climb back up.
I am extremely tired when we arrive back home, but after a shower and a huge glass of water I feel wonderful. I can still run. My whole body moved through the air at a faster than normal pace and I am still in one piece. It wasn’t a very fast run. I didn’t run for very long. But I ran.
Could I become a runner again? Could I join Andy, Imogen and Charlotte when they go for their daily run around the playing fields?
The next morning…
“Dad! It’s six o’clock. Time for a run!” I hear Imogen outside our bedroom door.
I roll out of bed. Andy opens his eyes. “Where are you going?”
“Running... with you.”
Andy looks surprised. Usually I decline all his running invitations. Usually I ignore him as he gets out of bed. Usually he goes out the door while I snuggle back down under the quilt.
Five minutes later we head out the back door with Imogen and Charlotte. The air is cool and moist and refreshing. We walk to the playing fields at the end of the deserted road. No one is awake except the birds and a wallaby who hops off into the bush at our approach. We drop our water bottles and sweat shirts onto the grass. We do a few stretches before setting off.
“You can just jog at first, Mum. You can work up to a run,” encourages Charlotte.
“I intend to walk at first and work up to a jog,” I shout back as she sails past me.
I stride to the end of the first side of the field. I am warmed up. This is it. Time to become a runner. I intend to run at least as far as the next corner. I step up the pace. I lift my heavy feet off the spongy grass and I try to breathe rhythmically. I glance ahead. The corner looks a long way off. I start to gulp for air and I can feel my heart beating fast. I think: Is this good for me? What if I collapse? Will the others carry me home? I can hear the kookaburras laughing. Are they laughing at me? I reach the corner and slow down to a walk.
I walk, then run, then walk some more. I get lapped by the girls. I run again. My legs hurt. My chest hurts. I’ve stopped noticing the beautiful fresh morning, the kookaburras laughing, the bush all around us... All I can hear is my heart beating. All I can feel is my sore legs. All I can see is the next corner of the field.
Half an hour later I am plodding home. Andy and the girls are a long way ahead. They are eager for hot showers and breakfast. I pull off my damp grass-covered trainers and crawl through the back door. I head for the bedroom where I collapse, blood pounding painfully in my ears. “Tea! I need a cup of tea,” I gasp pitifully to Andy.
As I lie here dying, I think about those old running days and I remember something: becoming a runner involves a lot of work. That I-can-run-forever feeling doesn’t just happen. It takes time and a lot of pain. I decide: running is a silly idea. I’ve been there and done that. I don’t need to do it again. I'm too old. Instead of going back in time, I am going to slide gracefully on into an inactive old age.
Eventually I realise I’m in no immediate danger of dying so I roll off the bed and head to the kitchen. Sophie and Gemma-Rose are eating breakfast. They have heard all about my morning’s adventures.
“You went running? Wow!” Their eyes open wide. They are very impressed.
Suddenly I feel good. I am no longer an ordinary mum. Instead I am Super-Running-Mum.
“Can we come running with you tomorrow?” the younger girls ask.
“If you’re up early,” I answer. They smile.
Tomorrow morning there will be six of us heading down to the playing fields. Tomorrow morning we will all go running together. Tomorrow morning I am going to have to work hard. It’s going to hurt. Can I do it? Of course. I have to. In my children's eyes, I am Super-Running-Mum. I am going to be a runner.
And that I-can-run-forever feeling? Yes... one day...