Breath rasped into Erika's heaving lungs. The air was jagged daggers tearing down her throat, visiting her lungs for the briefest of moments before tearing out again to be replaced by more of the painful air.
Her leg muscles quivered, sweat running slick down her thighs, behind her knees, even beading on her shins and trickling down to her socks. She bent over, rested her hands on her sweaty knees, and tried to steady her breathing and ignore black spots dancing in front of her eyes.
In the distance she could hear traffic passing on the highway, but the running trail was deserted aside from her. The traffic was the only human sound, but there were other sounds: birds singing despite the sticky, oppressive heat, fish lipping insects off the surface of the lake with a distinctive plop.
The wind shifted and, warm and humid or not, it felt good on Erika's face. It carried the faint scent of fish from the lake, and she'd recovered enough to be bothered by that. She drew in another deep breath and coughed, her lungs spasming from the abuse.
She'd run too fast, too hard, too long.
Erika shuffled to the side of the path and sat down in the shade, tipping her head back against the trunk of a tree. She'd rest--her legs, her lungs--and walk back home when she felt steady enough.