Lou had decided on the spur of the moment really. Well, after the conservative and confrontational committees in her head had debated into the early hours, she was left with equal arguments for and against, so her rational self had simply decided to go with the "yes" vote. Hell, she was fit enough — and there was still sufficient time to get in some specific training for the event. She'd nothing to lose...
They'd arrived at the small-town fair, she and her dog, and her partner. She was nervous, all right. Trembling with unease; bravado for cover. They found their way by dint of inquiry to the registration tent, where she entered with head held high and announced her intention to run. The local farmers smiled uneasily, acknowledging the rippling quads beneath her bike-shorts, her bright eyes, easy athleticism.
"Fair chance there," they thought. "Prefer a local girl though," they confessed to themselves. "She's in with a chance, right enough. Specially with him training her. She'll be worth a few quid when the betting's on."
Lou sauntered out, knowing she'd unsettled them with her fitness and strong physique. Her spirit, though ... that's what'd bring her home in front. Farmers — you'd think they could see spirit.
At his insistence she completed an easy lope round the oval as a warm-up, the dog at her heels, smiling with her, barely breathing. A few stretches and they were called to the marshalling area. She hugged her partner and left, nerves jangling.
Over to the truck at the east first, where the young bloke insisted she wear the specific top for the race. An ugly navy hessian sack of a thing. "What size, love?"
He searched through the jumbled tangle of shirts and produced a size twenty-four.
"You must be joking," she protested. "I'd be swimming in that."
He searched half-heartedly. "Look love, this is the best I can do," handing her a size eighteen.
"Jeez. Didn't know it was a sack race," she muttered, audibly. She heaved the garment reluctantly over her tight racing singlet, and headed for the other truck. Watched the other girls backing up to the tray to have their sack of potatoes slung about their shoulders.
"Okay, load me up," she drawled. Felt the weight tumble onto her, and moved easily away, the load swinging low.
"Not heavy at all," she thought. "Hardly noticeable really."
She joined the others at the chalk line in the dust of the oval. Waited, jostling for position at the line.
"Righto ladies. Ya gotta do a full round of the oval. No trippin others, no bad language, no spittin, no elbows. Good luck to aller yez."
The starter paused, full of his own importance and the weight of the moment, then took his hat off, and flung it into the dust.
The ladies took off to the voice of a local farmer at the loudspeaker.
"Well they're off, and a lotta nice lookin heifers makin a great field today folks. See that one in the pink cap? She's the local lass, a fine strong girl that. Hefty shoulders and robust flanks on that one. Hope you got a bet on her. She's ours, and we're bankin on her. The local girl. Give 'er a big hand!"
"That one runnin on the outside in mid-field with the wide arse ... Yeah, she's the champ from two year ago, and lookin mighty fine. Takin it easy now, but she'll have plenty left in the tank for the last gasp."
"An what about that little runty lookin one in the black cut-offs. Number twenny-two. She came second last year with a sprint ya wouldn't credit for such a bag o' bones."
"Here's one just roundin the first bend with a nice big set of udders. You'd want her for a house cow, that's certain. Whether she's cut out for haulin potatoes is another thing entirely," he chuckled. A spattering of claps from the crowd.
She was shocked by the vulgarity of the commentary. Almost thrown off-stride by it. No ... it wasn't just the commentary. The sack of potatoes was swinging wildly side to side so she could barely run with the half-empty bag throwing her off balance as it moved, a pendulum on her back.
Panicking, she looked at the other girls, trying to figure out the problem. Theirs were all sitting steady, sideways across their shoulders. Damn. No time to put hers down and take it up again. No way she could, actually.
She bent double, leaning forward, trying to still the swinging sack on her back and keep good pace. She was neck and neck with the Robbo girl now — the local, with the crowd yelling encouragement. Jeez, it was only a four-forty round the oval. Not far. She'd manage.
The local girl pulled away a little, her stance upright, and Lou tried to keep pace. Her legs and back ached, her wrists at her neck, holding the narrow end of the potato sack. She saw the stricken look of her partner as she passed him. Heartened by his presence, she stepped up her effort, but so did the other girl. The rest of the field staggered in the distance.