Updated: Mar 16, 2022
But she’s fierce and fast and tenacious
and so she’s selected.
Number 842 is attached
to the front of her red Medway vest
with borrowed pins.
Her tackies from Sports Direct
can’t compete with cross country racers.
She knows no-one and won’t warm up.
Instead she invents a method
where muscles are shocked into action
by being forced to run
when they least expect it.
She makes me laugh.
I make her want to die
by taking out a sandwich
to eat while we’re waiting.
Whistles are blown and they all line up.
instructions for starting.
This is a different league from the school field
and Iris suddenly looks small:
less like my bold, brash girl.
She stands pale and cold and still
amongst the jiggling club runners
in their thermal base layers.
The starting whistle sets them off
and they fly across frozen mud ruts
and flat winter grass.
Straight away, I lose her in the mass of legs
and remember what she said about
not running from a bear
and how her body will blame her
for such a pointless waste
of flight or fight.
I trail after the other mums and dads
who know about times and terrain.
When Iris emerges from
the bony Baba Yaga fingers
of a blackthorn bush,
I wave and cheer.
Her mortified frown hides a smile
before she disappears.
I grin and then
have to stop myself from crying.
But standing at the finish line,
I just can’t wait to see her.