WASHINGTON -- Oh, to be the fastest woman in the world. Other dreams may be equal to this one, but few are as accessible. Every able-bodied human being on the planet can and has run, knows the feeling of running full speed -- as fast as you can -- and the exhilaration of crossing a finish line, or not.
Unless you're Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, someone is always faster.
But never mind. Whoever may be faster in the next lane, the fastest person in the runner's heart is the runner herself. The feeling of fastest possible, though known to most, is indescribable. It is too bad that life eventually slows the sprinter in every former child.
Running is unique in sport by virtue of its utter purity, requiring nothing more than a willing body and force of spirit. No accoutrements: No bats, balls, helmets, motors, masks, goggles, oars, nets, padding, bars or beams. It's just you against ground, gravity and your own heart, not merely literally.
Sure, some are more genetically blessed than others, but anyone can turn the ignition and churn away. Deprived of wings, running is as close as we humans come to flying. To run is to be alone, free and limited only by the horizon. Whether recreational or functional, to run is to escape.
Run, Forrest. Run.
Such a simple imperative. All God's creatures run -- or get eaten. Or trampled. Or raped.
The world's fastest woman tells a story about being approached by a boy on her way home from school, who said it was time little Fraser-Pryce learned about men's "gifts." When she told her mother about the encounter, Mom grabbed a knife and showed the fellow the sharp edge of his fate should he pursue her daughter again.
It's a fair guess Fraser-Pryce could escape a pursuer, but not all women are so swift. And, in some places still, women who run are ridiculed and shunned. How dare they express themselves as strong and free, and faster than the men who would punish them? One such runner stands out in London not because she is faster than most but because she runs at all.
Tahmina Kohistani of Afghanistan didn't even qualify to compete in the 100-meter race that Fraser-Pryce won. But she won an even greater contest against the odds. She made it to London despite being heckled and chastised at home where -- as recently as last month the Taliban executed a woman for being accused of adultery -- Kohistani is a bad woman. Good women walk behind their men, and sports are for men to enjoy without the company of women -- except when occasionally they turn their stadiums into execution fields for noncompliant women.
Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group