The route is familiar, stone walls blending into manicured shrubs into wide expanses of impossibly green lawn and back to stone walls. My feet pound against the pavement in rhythm with music I don’t yet know. The sounds a melange of voices and beats from Sean’s iTunes library, muted snares and a soulful wail, digital pulses and angry raps. I pump my arms, breathing in and out, my mouth hardening and blurring between smile and wince.

Traveling in this way I am in tune with my body, every tensed muscle and each jiggle are automatically cataloged in my mind. There is no judgment, it is unapologetically zen for me, this motion of self. I’ve had two children, girls. My self, my voice, two of the greatest factors in how my girls will see themselves, they are my charges on this journey. The miles I log, the sweat I release are investments in their future. I will not fail, I won’t give in, as I do for me, I do for them.

“Mommy’s runnin’ fast,” a sweet whisper in my ear, an echo from another time.

I am. The beautiful houses whiz by, and they do so because of me, my power and my endurance. A ferocious burn builds in my lungs and I am awed. The younger me, the pre-baby me would have stopped, tied a shoe or some such thing. The Amanda today soldiers on, wincing no longer, she beams.

“I am runnin’ fast!”

The song changes and the pulse of an angry sounding song comes on, it is irresistible. I tear into the sidewalk, my feet digging harder, pushing off and lifting me into the next lunge. The scenery shifts, the houses are smaller, the yards less groomed. The air moves against my face, cool as it hits the perspiration above my eyes and beneath my nose. Branches whip against my legs, the sting a welcome nip, fueling me on. I am as lost in the music and motion as can be and then I feel it, eyes upon my form.

I turn, suddenly aware of the lyrics to the song. They are harsh, but perfect for running. The eyes upon me: a lacrosse team. The players standing against the cyclone fence, massive hands holding sticks and metal railing, their coach has his back to me. There is no ambivalence, they check me out. Sensing distraction the coach turns and meets my eye, his mouth slips into a slow approving smile and I blush. My mind falters, the music pulls me back.

I lower my head and run faster, past the boys and into the setting sun. I can feel them watching and it makes me smile. I deserve this and I feel no shame.

I am mom. I am woman. I am fast.