by Jane Hertenstein

Wait! I want to shout, but she is gone . . .

From the sidelines I watch an older woman on the running path shuffle by; her feet are hardly moving.

I never used to get dressed for anything less than five miles. Now I’m lucky to run that much in a week. My jog bra is now my mom bra, my everyday bra. And my running pants are more like loungewear. I continue to peruse the RunningSport catalogs while sitting at the edge of the soccer field watching my kids practice.

Jog! What a word. It conjures up the image of heavy feet clodding along on pavement. Yet even that amount of effort sounds overwhelming.

I bumped into an old friend the other day. He and I used to run together along the lakefront. He was so much faster and I remember having to sprint in order to keep up with him. He’s on medication that has totally blown him up. He says there are days he doesn’t get out of pajamas. As we stood in the parking lot, he with his frayed flannels and liter of Coke and me with an avocado smoothie, I could hardly feel superior. I’ve put on twenty pounds in the last ten years.

Lately the only thing that gets stretched is the elastic at my waist.

It’s a Saturday morning along the lakefront, and all around me people are running, biking, rollerblading—and I’m trying to wake up. The past few nights the baby has kept us up with a cough, the kind that sounds like braying hounds. I spent between 2 and 3 a.m. in the shower holding her while the small space steamed into dense fog. Just like my brain this morning. We got out of the house and to the park after the count off. Kids were already into position by the time we arrived. I hustled across the field with my son, stopping twice to catch my breath.

The lady has managed to move closer. Bare-chested guys and toned girls in sports bras fly past her. She wears a lavender top. I’ve seen performance wear in that color and thought I might look good in it. There is something about her that both repels and provokes jealousy. I want to be her, and yet I’m afraid someday I will be. As she comes into focus, I see a smile on her face.

I close the catalog in my lap. I used to love running. I miss being in the zone, that place where I slipped between time and into another dimension. The high I used to get was better than drugs, almost as good as sleep.

Wait! I want to shout, but she is gone, disappeared down a dip in the path. I leave my stuff in a little pile by my lawn chair and take a few steps. I’m coming, the voice inside my head burbles as I take a lap around the kids’ soccer field. Already I can feel the adrenaline.