Mark ran. He started without a warm-up. He had never run in his adult life, and not since gaining those last few pounds that put him over the Bar – the ‘your health is seriously at risk’ bar.

He made it about ten feet, and fell to his knees, small scratches drawing a little blood and a little whine. “Suck it up,” he hissed to himself. He struggled to his feet, and he ran.

Mark managed to run a further fourteen feet, when his breath caught. He wheezed, clutching his chest – he would have described it as ‘dramatically’, if he wasn’t thoroughly hating his life at the moment. There was no way he had time for adverbs.

He coughed, feeling cold air scratch at his throat, and ran again. Twenty feet later, and Mark thought he’d sprained his ankle. He sat down, “Just for a minute.” Mark removed his right shoe, massaged a chubby ankle. He was satisfied he wasn’t incapacitated beyond his belly, and lumbered to his feet. He was an awkward blob, and he knew it, and it was even more apparent when he was bent over.

Without a doubt, bending over was the worst.

It took him a moment, testing his weight on his ankle, and he began to run again. Mark managed fifty feet, when his stomach lurched. He could feel his breakfast churning, and he knew he was going to get sick.

The vomit sprayed a good ten feet, before sloshing from his mouth. He pulled a tissue from his pocket – tissues he was always sure to keep on his person in case of a pepper overdose on his dinner that could cause a sneezing fit – and wiped his face clean.

He did not have time to pretend he was interested in the environment. He ran again. One hundred feet, and the sweat was soaking through his jacket. He definitely was not dressed for this. He tossed it to the ground, damp and stinking and perhaps a little bit splashed with vomit. He tried to suppress his disgust.

When he ran close to three hundred feet, his needed to remove his t-shirt, too. His stomach, a little bit hairy, incredibly pale, and bulging in all the wrong places, flopped out over his jeans.

“I should have changed,” he said to himself. The jeans were baggy, and scraped against the ground when he walked. He did not want to think of the damage they were sustaining as he ran the next eight hundred feet.

His runners – made for comfort, not for sport – came off next. They were old, anyway, he reasoned.

Now, wearing just a pair of jeans, a pair of socks, and a pair of underwear, he was barely recognisable as a human being. He was all fat, no form, and he was running. Half a mile. A mile. No more socks – too many holes.

His feet bled after the next couple of miles, and he whined over that, too, until he grew used to the pain. It was early in the morning, the world was empty, and he could deal with a little bit of injury. They were only feet. He spent most of his time off them, anyway.

Ten miles later, the jeans had to come off.

He decided that was as far as he would go, in terms of stripping his clothes. Wearing just a pair of underwear – a pair that looked like shorts, for all intents and purposes – he ran another twenty five miles.

He stopped, and had a look around his immediate vicinity. “Nope, no idea.” He was lost in a field, trees scattered around him, power lines still visible. He hadn’t escaped modern society in its entirety, but he was definitely getting close. No more cars. No more people. He’d left early enough that no one had seen him fall. No one had seen him vomit. No one had seen him strip.

No one was witness to the next sixty miles, or the hundred that followed.

He was sunburnt – or just red from the cold, he couldn’t tell. He tried to think of the seasons, but they all melded together. His sweat kept him cool, his fat kept him warm, and the sky was clear. He’d seen it like that in December, and he’d seen it like that in July – it was just the sky, clear blue and brilliant.

He ran three hundred miles, and he began to worry he was going to run out of land.

Nothing could stop him running the next eight hundred. Nothing, except a stone in the road. He tripped, a proper fall this time, running his fastest, body almost completely bare to the world. Somehow, night had come and gone and come again and he hadn’t noticed. It could have been a week, but he hadn’t stopped, and he hadn’t changed. He was still all fat and sweat and determination, and he was tumbling to the ground with a stubbed toe and a scream.

Mark swore when he hit the ground, his back tearing up, blood welling through the folds of his skin. He felt a bone break in his left arm on the first on-ground tumble. His head crashed into the rocks. He was immediately blinded by blood in his eyes.

He tumbled over sharp rocks for a good ten feet, before coming to a stop. His back wasn’t broken. He wasn’t given the relief from pain that paralysis might have given him. Instead, he needed to vomit again. His head couldn’t stay still. A buzzing in his ears made him feel sicker. His arms ached, and the one that hadn’t broken was still slick with blood.

He lay there, and he cried, and he tried to get up.

Mark’s legs worked fine. It took him half an hour of tears and curses to stand.

He ran again. He didn’t stop, not so long as there was ground beneath him. Mark ran despite the pain, and because of it.

About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer and comic creator from Dublin. He is a founding member of Cupán Fae and Limit Break Comics, Editor of Comix Ireland, and runs Red Fox Cards.
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