The smell of unwashed adrenaline-filled bodies was overwhelming. Diana suddenly realized she did not want to be there. Searching for a way out, she found that she was in the exact middle of the crowd. She scouted out the best path for a graceful exit, but before she could take a step in that direction the gun went off.
Diana was immediately swept up in the wave of Spandex clad athletes, surging forward. Daggers of doubt stabbed at her self-confidence even as she began to find her pace. It had been so long since she had run. Everyone else was taller, thinner, more athletic. What had made her think she should try this?
A snippet of conversation floated toward her.
“Remember to run the tangents, son. That’s how they measure the course. Don’t make more work for yourself.” Father and child headed toward the inside of the corner, long legs eating up the short course.
Diana had automatically drifted to the outside, subconsciously avoiding the crowd. She clearly sucked at running.
Halfway through the race, she realized that her breathing was even and steady. The nagging voice had fallen silent, replace by cheering strangers lining the course. She spotted a row of children offering high fives and thought, why not?
A flopping iPod cord caught her attention just a few feet ahead. The finish line was in sight and Diana was tired. Still, she wondered if she should try to pass. She went for it. Determined legs pumping, chest heaving, she crossed the finish line a single step ahead of iPod girl.
Making their way to the end of the chute to collect their “finisher” medals, huffing and puffing from the effort, iPod girl turned to say, “Good race!”
“You too,” said Diana. Maybe she belonged here after all.
This was a flash fiction contest entry. The prompt for this was to use the words: Gun, Measure, Cord.
Of course, I immediately thought of a crime, as did everyone else who entered the contest, but I wanted to do something different and I’m glad I did. It didn’t win but it stood out nicely from the crowd.