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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.

There’s rules:

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.


She’s fine.

But standing at the finish line,

I just can’t wait to see her.

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