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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #427031
what might make a young woman run faster than her male contemporaries?
She sat in the doctor's office studying her lab report intently: height 5'3", weight 118lbs, blood pressure 98/56, temperature 98.6, hematocrit 58, total protein 9, albumin 6. She was small, some would even say petite, except that she was rather lean and muscular. Her blood panel was well above normal but not outside normal human parameters. Everything could pretty much be accounted for by her diet and lifestyle. She was an athlete, a runner of extraordinary talent, inhuman talent.

She ran. She had run for years, forever. She could not remember a time when she didn't run. She could remember noise, yelling, screaming, crashing, breaking sounds. And she could remember running; running to escape from it, from the beatings, and the pain that came with the noise. In the beginning escape before the beatings was impossible. She would run after the beatings, away from her own rage and humiliation. She was four.

When she was five she found an escape, one she could reach only if she ran as soon as she heard the noise. Sometimes, many times, she didn't make it. It was a dark corner full of dust and cobwebs. A neglected corner of a closet in a long forgotten room.

When she was six there was another temporary escape from the terror in her home; school. There she was unmolested, by both the children and the adults. The children thought her strange, quiet, too quiet. The adults thought her studious, introspective. Both left her to her own devices. At school she was left alone. She was a loner, not knowing how to trust or gain the trust and company of others. She was lonely. In her loneliness she watched the other children play and dreamed of joining them. She never did, she couldn't, she didn't know how.

When she was seven her closet was discovered, escape was blocked, the beating was one of the most severe she had ever had. Not long after the loss of her closet she discovered another escape; outside - anywhere - outside, if she could run far enough fast enough. After this discovery she made sure she always had access to a door or window that led outside.

She ran. She ran to escape; she ran to school, she ran to church, she ran to the library and to the store. The only place she didn't run to was home.

Junior high:a new and different escape for the day. Physical education class. A chance to run not because she was afraid, just because of the games they made her play. In the games she ran slowly; she was not afraid, she wanted to see others run when they were neither afraid nor in a rage. Strangely it made her feel a little less alone.

Junior high spring: Coach Bennett wanted the class to play a new game, a running game, the fox and the hounds. Coach Bennett made her the fox so that all of the hounds could catch her and earn points in the class. She would earn points by virtue of being the fox. Coach Bennett said it would be once around the track, it would be easy, she could do it, just try. It was supposed to be fun. Coach gave her a twenty-yard advantage, backed away, then said quietly, with authority - BEGIN. She ran as she normally did for the games, slowly. Then she heard the noise, the roar of her classmates, the loud thuds of their falling feet. And suddenly she was afraid and she ran like she ran when she heard the noise at home; she ran like she was running for her life. They never caught her, not a single one. Her twenty yard advantage, which at first had contracted down to less than ten yards, grew to more than forty. She ran, finished the one required lap and kept running; into the girls locker room, into the bathroom, into a stall. Squeezed between the toilet and the separating wall, she slid to the floor and waited for the noise to stop.
Coach Bennett found her on the floor in a cold sweat, shivering, eyes dilated, afraid. Coach Bennett knelt before Allison and opened her arms to her. Without sound or ceremony Allison accepted the comfort Coach Bennett offered.

She continued to run. Not just away from the noise and the beatings but to the comfort and for the joy. She had discovered joy. She found it in Coach Bennett's arms and in her care and concern. She found it in herself. She found she was worthy.

She began to run with her classmates rather than behind them to see what running was like from a closer to normal perspective. She began to run for Coach Bennett, to see the pride in her eyes when she finished first, full seconds before any other runner in the race. This also ended some of the loneliness. She finally had people she could trust and could call "friend."

The noise still lived in her house and the beatings continued to occur when she was caught unaware. But running had expanded for Allison. It grew from a tool for survival to one of survival and art. To run when she was afraid was a survival instinct. To run because she wanted to was an artistic one. Running had become beautiful to her. To feel the air flow across her skin and hear it blow past her ears, to see the green-brown blur of earth as she ran over it was to create instant personal art.

At the end of her high school years she ran away from what she had called home for the last time, leaving behind the noise and the beatings, running, with scholarship in hand, to university and what she thought was freedom.

The university was a completely new world to her. She met and interacted with people who ran because they could, or because they wanted to, or because their parents wanted them to; people unlike herself because she ran to escape, she ran to live and to stay alive. And she met other people more like herself; people who didn't run physically but emotionally, from their families, their tragedies, and their past. These people, the ones like her, drank, and smoked and used a wide variety of chemicals to escape. She just ran, put distance and speed between herself and the noise.

But she was still running for her life. Running for the scholarship that paid for her education and kept food in her belly and a roof over her head.

Her first year she lived with Claire. Claire was like she was; a victim, and a survivor. The only difference was that Claire used chemicals to help her cope. After a major exam she would run. After a major exam Claire would drink. In that year, and despite their differences, Allison and Claire grew to care for each other.

Towards the end of that first year Claire had a particularly bad drunk; bad enough to frighten Allison. Claire was nearly toxic with alcohol, Allison didn't dare let her pass out. To keep her conscious Allison asked, "Run with me." Claire mumbled something incoherent and proceeded to slip into the black. "Run with me, " Allison begged, pulling Claire up right. Again Claire muttered inaudible syllables. Slowly, holding her hands, Allison walked Claire out of the dorm and to the track. Facing Claire, and stills holding her hands Allison walked, then jogged her around the track. Halfway around, Claire stopped, collapsed, retched, and vomited what alcohol was left in her stomach. Gently Allison urged her to her feet and again they walked the track. As Claire sobered Allison talked to her of books and stories, and music, and the green-brown blur of running. With the rising sun Allison judged Claire sober enough to sleep safely. They returned to the dorm still holding hands.

With the end of that first year, Claire returned to her family, and having no home to go to, Allison remained at school.

With the fall semester Claire came back. Before the end of the first week she was drunk. When she was sober again Allison asked, "Run with me." Claire said yes.

They ran. Everyday. Sometimes long slow miles, sometimes short fast sprints. Claire was never any match for Allison but she had stopped drinking.

At the end of that second year Allison asked Claire to stay for the summer session. "Without you, I will be lonely again. Even with my other friends, I'll be lonely." Claire said yes.

Somewhere in the middle of that third year Allison made a mistake. She ran her best race, made better than decent time, and beat six of the finest male runners on the track team.

She was out at the track one evening warming up, fooling around with some of the guys. Everyone started bragging on just how fast they were and challenges were made. Seven of them lined up for a friendly race, a short sprint, just once around the track, it would be fun. The men offered Allison a head start but she declined it saying she wanted to see how fast she really was compared to them. The trainer on the sidelines, who had just come out to watch agreed to start the race. In a clear voice the trainer yelled, "On your mark.....get set.....GO!" And the runners broke. They stayed in a pack for the first eighty to one hundred yards, then they began to stretch out. They teased each other, laughed and smiled, switched lanes, and altered their pace. At little more than half way around the track they truly vied for the lead. At that point Allison surged ahead. She ran, stretched out her body, and sliced through the air, her feet barely coming to earth. She finished the race first, well ahead of the others, surprising everyone except herself. Allison had just out run six of the men on the university's track team.

That's why she was here now, in the doctor's office, studying her incomprehensible medical chart; because the coaches felt that anything that could make a woman out run six of the fastest men in the country could be used to make the men run faster.

Her diet and training regime was closely monitored. Her blood and urine were collected and analyzed. She was x-rayed, cat scanned, ultra sounded, and electromyogramed. Everyday there was a new test to undergo. Everyday instead of running outside under the sun she ran inside on a treadmill, under fluorescent lights, hooked up by gas mask to one machine that measured her lung capacity, another that measured the strength of her muscle contractions, and another that bled her slowly, drop by drop, while she ran. The noise from the treadmill and the fluorescent lights and the many pens marking her readings was horrible.

This went on for almost three months. When the test failed to reveal anything unusual, muscle biopsy was suggested. At this Allison balked, she had had enough, she said no. She ran home, went the long way, ran long hard angry miles home to the room she shared with Claire, laid on the bed and cried. She had not cried in almost ten years.

The coaches and doctors tried everything to get what they wanted. They offered her "scholarship enhancements." She refused. They offered her bigger better off campus living conditions. Again she refused. They threatened her scholarship. She looked up the NCAA rules and successfully defended her right to refuse to be experimented on. Then they threatened to expose the nature of her relationship with Claire to her parents. She laughed so hard she fell out of the chair she was sitting in. And through all of it Claire held her hands, talked to her of books, stories, music, and the green-brown blur of running.

In the end Allison managed to escape further testing and continued to run, ending her college athletic career with official wins timed well within normal human female parameters, and unofficial wins against her male friends timed well outside of them.

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