"The Woman Who Needed to Run" by Emma McEvoy

She pulls on her running shoes and slips unnoticed out the back door, down the rain-slicked path, and through the garden gate where she pauses and expels long, angry breaths.

The sounds from a football match drift through their open living room window, and she imagines him settled into his armchair, their latest argument already forgotten. It’s been going on for months now: the endless bickering and sniping at each other. Some days, their words are barbed comments that scratch and nick; other days, like today, they are heavy blows that wound deeply. Combined, they leave scars that have taken their toll on her.

She turns her face up towards the gentle mizzling rain, willing it to cool her anger and dissolve her problems. She needs to be away, to put distance between them. She sets off running. Her pace is slow at first as she picks her way past puddles and dodges dog-walkers.

Today’s words echo in her mind, propelling her forward, fuelling her momentum.

You’re too selfish to change.”

Her feet pound the pavement.

You’re not cut out for motherhood: your body clearly knows that even if you don’t!

She passes the houses on the edge of the village and heads up the track through the ancient evergreens. Over the stream leading up onto the hillside, side-stepping rocks and stones along the path. She roughly wipes the tears away as she pushes on along the snaking hairpins that lead ever upwards, her muscles protesting and her lungs burning with the urgency and speed of this run. It usually takes a few minutes, a mile or so to settle in, and she tells herself it won’t be long before she hits that sweet spot, before the mechanics of her body are synchronised, and everything will run on autopilot. This has always been her release, and today she needs it to override the soreness of her heart, the dull ache in her abdomen, the feeling of impossibility in her marriage. She needs to feel the strength and power of her body, to focus on what it can do; not what it can’t.

As the scent of pine trees fills her lungs, she realises the anger is lessening with each exhalation. Glorious, heady endorphins flood her bloodstream. Fuelled by her own strength now, she continues up the hill for miles until she reaches the ridge where she finally pauses to rest on a rock. Birdsong stills her, and her breathing slows and returns to normal.

Up here, his words hurt less. He says he doesn’t resent her. She almost laughs at his stupid insensitivity, his coldness, the seemingly endless arguing, the crushing disappointments that come each month. Up here on the ridge, clarity descends. Maybe she won’t be a mother, but she’s reached the point where she doesn’t want to be his wife either.

She pushes off the rock, and sets off, ready for change.