“I’m so sorry, but I’ve been sick all night, Claire. I feel awful. I don’t think I can make it today, I’m so sorry.” As I listen to the message on my phone, my heart sinks. It’s the morning of the fun run, and Sara is dropping out of the race. I don’t blame her- she sounds awful. But without Sara there I will have to just race with Hannah. Great!
I text Sara to say I’d gotten her message as I don’t want to disturb her with a phone call. She texts back to say she has let Hannah know as well, and Hannah will meet me at the race.
“Great,” I say to myself as I do some warm-up stretches in my room.
Over the past few weeks, Sara, Hannah and I had had a few training sessions together. Hannah had to cancel quite a few times due to other things getting in the way, which I didn’t mind, to be honest. It was easier when it was just Sara and me. Sara had felt really bad about the way they had both teased me at the park that day, and when we did all meet up Sara tried to keep up the small talk. I began to think Hannah was maybe not that bad. She could be quite funny and interesting at times, but then she would just make a little comment or give me a look, and it would just get to me all over again.
When I spoke to my mother about it, she pointed out that we were grownups now and that those days at school were a long time ago. She thought I needed to be less sensitive and just ignore it.
“Maybe she doesn’t realise she is hurting your feelings, Claire. Some people speak first and then think afterwards. Don’t take it to heart. You are nothing like the little girl they teased at school. Of course, you will always be my little girl!”
I had taken to doing some training sessions on my own at the gym or in the park, depending on the weather, rather than with Sara and Hannah. I had managed to improve on my time but had still not hit the 32-minute mark. I was determined to try to get there, no matter what.
The park is absolutely heaving with people when I arrived. It felt a bit like Purim as some people were dressed in fancy dress costumes or silly hats, and there were lots of people standing along the route to cheer everyone on. It was a shame that Sara was not here to experience this.
“Hi Claire,” a voice said from behind me. “Such a shame about Sara. I hope she is ok.”
“Yes, she sounded awful, but I guess it’s one of those things. Shall we make our way over to the start?” I tried to keep the conversation to a minimum.
We assemble amongst the crowds as close to the starting line as possible. I am trying to focus on the race ahead, but the noise around me is deafening. Over the tannoy, someone announces that the race will start soon, and then a countdown begins from 10.
“10, 9, 8, 7, 6…”
“You have worked really hard for this Claire. Good luck!” Hannah says, smiling. She almost sounded genuine. Maybe my mother was right, maybe she didn’t mean to be so rude to me….
“Thanks, same to you.”
“5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO GO GO!”
Some sprint off ahead, making their way to the front of the group, but I know that for me I have to get into the zone before I can start speeding up.
“You can do this,” I say to myself. I am not sure if Hannah hears me or not, but I don’t care.
Hannah and I start out together, and whilst she tries to chat, I am focussing on my breathing and not really listening to her babble on. I am determined to just concentrate on beating my time, and I don’t want anything to stop me. I take a big gulp of water and a deep breath, and then I push forward.
As we reach the 4K marker, I am feeling good. I am not sure where Hannah is; she is lost in the throng. I look down to check my watch, and based on the timings, I am likely to finish this in just over 32 minutes. After all my hard work, I am not going to let 60 seconds ruin it all for me. I’m going to beat this….
I am determined, I am focussed, I am on the ground…ouch!
I was so busy looking at my watch that I didn’t notice a big branch that had somehow fallen onto the path in front of me. What an idiot.
Tears well up in my eyes as a mixture of pain from my ankle and the realisation that I won’t hit my target kick in. “I am never going to beat my record now….”
“Clumsy Claire strikes again.” I hear Hannah laughing as she stands over me.
“Stop it, Hannah, I don’t need your sarcasm. I think I’ve twisted my ankle…” I sniffle, “…and my hand is grazed too.”
“Oh Claire, I was only teasing, didn’t mean to upset you. Come on…can you stand?” Hannah pulls me up by my arm. “You’ve worked too hard on this. You can’t let a twig get in your way.”
She pulls me up and I wobble a little, but she steadies me and puts her arm round my shoulders.
“You can lean on me. We’ll finish this together.” Hannah says and smiles. This time she actually does look genuine.
We carry on together like some strange four-legged creature, pounding along the path.
As we reach the finishing post, I look up at the massive timer overhead….31.58 seconds as we cross the finish line.
“Well done Claire, you did it!” Hannah hugs me, jumping up and down as my legs begin to wobble. We walk hand in hand to collect our medals. I am almost the same colour as Hannah’s bright pink t-shirt, but I don’t care. I am so proud of myself for beating the time. As I take a drink of water, my phone rings.
“Hey Sara, yeah we just finished. I had a bit of a run-in with a twig, but we are all ok.”
“She beat her time, called the Guinness Book of Records!” Hannah shouts down the phone.
I put Sara on loudspeaker
“That’s amazing Claire, I’m so proud of you! I still feel like rubbish, but I hope you guys are doing ok.”
“We’re doing fine. Just need to lie down for a bit and rest my ankle. I couldn’t have done it without Hannah. She practically carried me over the finish line.”
Hannah smiles. “You’re a bit heavier than Samuel though…” she says, and I know that she is just joking.
“Send me a photo with your medals, ladies. Speak later.”
I put down the phone to her, turn the phone on us, and take a selfie of the both of us proudly holding our medals.