I dragged my feet reluctantly to the finish line, swallowing the bile that had risen inside my throat, anticipating what lay ahead. Exhaustion. De-hydration, possibly death.
I could hear Miss Fridd’s voice in the background, but what she was saying was muffled by the blood pumping in my ears, making me almost deaf.
My only sign that the death march had started was the other victims were running around me. Without warning, I realized my feet were moving as well, and at a dangerously fast pace, using up large amounts of my almost non-existent energy.
Everyone seemed to be in front of me. In what little thoughts I had, other than to keep running, I wondered how they were moving so fast without collapsing.
My arms pumped hard, threatening to elbow, and severely injure anyone who might have been lapping me. I could feel, rather than hear my short, jiggered breath as it passed through my dry throat.
My legs were screaming, refusing to go any more than a few centimeters with each step. I couldn’t start walking, not on my first lap, but I doubted I could have stopped them without collapsing on the spot. I resisted the long trip to the water fountain, which seemed like miles, not wanting a stitch.
That was when my pains activated. I put a hand to the place where my neck joined my shoulder, my skin clammy and cold, and would have winced, if not for my already cringed brow. Again, it was aching.
I moved my hand back and forth, squeezing all the pressure points. Adding to the protests in my leg, a string had been attached from my thigh to my knee, and every time I moved, it was pulled taught. I squeezed my eye lids tight to avoid screaming out in agony.
I passed Miss Fridd, her voice screaming something to me, but I couldn’t hear. Probably shouting for me to keep going, and if I had had enough energy, I would have sighed.
My friends were all running towards me, and automatically, my mouth opened to shout congratulations to my friends, making myself feel miserable.
I started to despair over ever breathing again. All I was doing now was short gasps off air, barely enough to keep me from blacking me out.
Everything was going blurred. The passing figures were bursts of colour, and black spots were appearing everywhere, and bile rose into my mouth. I quickly swallowed it, and reached out for the nearest thing to steady me.
I fairly crawled the next few meters, before I set off again. My only hope was to get there fast, and put an end to what seemed this ever-lasting torture.
If possible, I was running even slower than before, my feet barely moving as I threw them down in front of me.
Slowly a specific figure became more focused, and I realized who it was. Jacqui, who had slowed down since I last saw her, was running at the same pace as I, or at least as close as she could get. I do not think it is possible to be running as slow, or slower, than I was.
She passed over a few jokes about how slow we were, and I laughed, although the laughter hurt my ribs, and I tried to resist the urge to laugh again, managing only in returning a comment.
Jacqui suggested running and walking, although I couldn’t tell her when we were walking that I was truly jogging, and when running, well, I suppose she noticed I was moving slower than her walk.
We passed Miss Fridd, who was screaming again. This time, I was able to make out some words like ‘run’ ‘walk’, and ‘keep going.’ As if we weren’t doing that already.
I wanted to sit down, relax, die, anything but run another lap, but my legs kept moving down the track, knowing that I had to ‘keep going.’
I was so exhausted, what before slightly resembled breathing, now more resembled grunting. Eventually, Jacqui said she wanted to run the rest of the way. I tried. I failed. She ran on ahead. Once at the top of the hill, which seemed more like a mountain, I started to run about as fast as a snail, then I stopped. I tried again, this time running more the pace of a dead snail, barely moving at all.
I carried on, my senses dull, all energy lost, and body aching. I went on for what seemed a life time before I reached what I supposed, was the end. Miss Fridd was screaming again, and I guess I did what she was telling me to do, because two words escaped my deafness. “You’re finished.”
I wanted to collapse, stop breathing, close my eyes for good, anything but walk back to class.