“Are you sure this is a good idea, Meg?”
My mother looks at me with both concern and disapproval. She holds up my inhaler so I know exactly what she’s talking about.
I give her a subtle nod as I take off my warm-up track suit and start jogging in place.
“This could be the day,” I say. I’m not sure if I say it for her benefit or for myself though.
“You said that exact same thing on the last race and look how that turned out. They had to carry you to the medical tent, Meg.”
She puts the inhaler back in her purse, exasperated.
“I can’t give up.” I reply, “You know I’m doing this for Lynn.”
“Runners to the starting line!” booms a voice overhead. My mother sighs and trudges away as I walk to the white line spray painted across blazing green grass.
I put my foot on the line and imagine Lynn’s foot here instead. She used to run cross country for our high school; she even made it to state once. That was before the accident, though.
The official gets up on his platform, readying to shoot the starting gun. I remember my promise to Lynn and steady myself.
And then I’m alive. I surge forward fast like I always do, forgetting Lynn telling me to pace myself.
The memory of her right after her accident rushes up in my mind. “If I can’t run, it’s like I’m not alive anymore, Meg,” she had admitted. We had been close before the accident but this felt like something more. She looked so miserable, so broken. I had to do something. I never thought of myself as a strong person but maybe I could be for the right reasons.
As I start to get winded only a third of the way through, I recall her training me and how that sparked a flame in her. I let it spark a fire in me to push through the pain. There are things worth fighting for that are more important than breathing easily today.
As I round the corner towards the finish line, other runner flank me left and right, racing ahead. That’s okay. The goal was never to win. The goal is much bigger than that.
My legs are rubber and each foot is a lead ball that I pound into the ground over and over again.
I see Lynn, barely visible in her wheelchair, but her presence is undeniable.
“Get those legs up, Meg! Today’s the day!”
My lungs are on fire and I don’t know if I can keep my promise. Her screaming voice is the only thing that pulls me through.
I risk looking up and see the streaming banner waving only yards in front of me, the FINISH is bright and clear in my mind.
The goal was just to make it, just make it.
And when I see Lynn smiling as I cross, I know we’ve made it.