START:

Risa

There was no other way I could accept my new reality.

I breathe in slowly as I walk, letting the cold, delicious morning air fill my lungs. I'm so lucky to be a morning person.

The park is a little ways off from our house, with the swingset and the monkey bars still standing firm although their ugly brownish paint scrapes off and peels in places. The overcast sky gives everything a blue tinge and a faint bit of dew on everything.
It's calmingly still, and empty. Lonely. No one will be here for a while.

None of my neighbors are ever up and out as early as me, and I've come even earlier than usual; I need to feel confident that I'm going to be alone for what I need to do. Or at least that anyone who sees me isn't anyone I care about.

The wet grass beneath my sneakers squeak against them like rubber. The birds only just start chirping, and I smile up at them, although the anxious knot in my stomach stays wound tight.

I try to ignore the sparks of pain going off in my leg as I walk to the track.

My almost meditative inhales turned into gulping air like a dying fish once I re-unite with that familiar red strip of ground.
I try to do what I always do to block everything out: Slow breaths, focus on tensing and relaxing, feel the earth beneath me and the rough ground's resistance against my soles.

It doesn't hurt.

Just concentrate on the finish line ahead.

It doesn't hurt.

I'm like a bullet, I am still the Cheetah, I am faster than Wifi, I am...I'm just something really fast or I was but now I have a problem around that so why even do those comparisons or this stupid thing and what am I doing I should STOP

I let out an annoyed growl like I can scare the bad thoughts away and get in position, mentally counting down.

3...

2...

Go!

I take off—

OW!

—and stumble after making a little headway in a sprint, fall down, clutching my leg and gritting my teeth in quiet agony. The pain blossoms in full, radiating in heated waves throughout my body and only getting more intense.

Fucking hell. My thoughts are reduced to a staccato of angry, unladylike swears that mother would be ashamed to hear. Ow, damn. Shit, assnuggets, flayed ballsack, fuck damn shitty SHIT!

I haven't gotten better. If anything it's even worse.

My friends, my parents. How do I tell them?
I really can't run anymore.

Could I even walk back to the house like this?

Forget getting myself to college on these legs. Forget trying to go a mile, or even half. Forget getting myself to the end of this track.

I can't run at all.

I swallowed hard as my throat tightened, and then squeezed my eyes shut. No! No. Don't you dare cry here. Not now. Come on.

Slowly I force myself back onto my feet, and stubbornly hobble towards the finish line.

It takes way too long past my record time but I finally make it there, and by then the pain is too much.

I managed not to crack while I was at home with everyone's eyes on me.

But for once I don't care about being seen like this.

I let go, crumpling down on the wet grass, and cry.