“See you there” she says,
Looking over her shoulder,
as off she takes, hair streaming behind her.
“I’ll show you the way.”
“Where? Wait. I’m not ready-
I haven’t fixed my travel insurance.”
“Don’t fret” she says, “Just enjoy the run.”
“Are you sure about this?
I’d like to see your coaching credentials,” I say,
trying to sound important,
but my words are lost on the wind.
Lithe but robust she dashes,
Limbs and lungs primed.
She entices the athlete in me.
But while she, the Mercury who has given
as yet only a shred of her message,
sprints on her winged heels,
I, whose feet are more Achilles-like[i]
and decidedly flat,
already sense the stress of tendons
and earthbound slog before I’ve even begun to run.
Yet within the promised arduousness is an ardour
I can neither explain nor escape,
even though she has, it seems, already escaped me.
And so I lift one foot then another,
raise my creaky knees,
and propelling forwards, try not to lose sight of her,
which is tricky,
intent as I am scanning the ground for scorpions,
even though I’m assured they are not found in these parts.
Can’t be too careful.
I suspect she varies her pace
so that I can always just glimpse her-
she never quite slips over the horizon-
and every so often by a trick of the light
I fancy that she gives me an encouraging, mischievous wave.
It must be said, I find her at times irritatingly imprudent
and unmindful of my dignity
as she pushes me to an unsweet sweatiness.
But just when I am about to slink off
bone tired into the undergrowth
or book into a posh hotel and hide from her,
she shows me the stars and I hear her singing in the distance.
And so we run.
Not much time for talk or taking stock.
It seems that walking will not do.
In idler canter moments, watching the sun flicker through leaves,
I wonder not so much the how or the where
(which somehow ceases to matter in the doing)
but more what I am doing?
Will she lead me lemming-like over a cliff?
At rarest times, the run becomes dance-like
and being in-sync with her lends me poise and daring,
but mostly I worry so much about blisters and road-blocks
I lose the music.
Will there be a place where, resting on our laurels,
I finally see her in stasis
this pulsing, fluid sprite of life?
Is this a chase, a race, a hunt,
or a tandem so apart it seems irrefutably solo?
But just when I think I am struggling after nothing
I see her trace in dust and mud,
and there she is ahead,
cajoling and pausing mid-stride,
this always unguessable,
tender and rigorous messenger,
before she turns again
and glories in the run
And so we run.
Mercury: in Roman mythology, the messenger of the gods, who has winged sandals.
In Greek mythology Achilles was the great warrior whose mother dipped him at his birth into the River Styx to render him invulnerable. Because she held him by the heel, this part remained vulnerable, and it was a poisoned arrow to the heel that killed him.