61. Slogging

61. Slogging

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Curvy & Confident

Slogging

Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which functions independently of logic.

~Tim Noakes

I still remember those awful runs twenty years ago: four laps on a cinder track with the high school volleyball team in the hot Missouri summer. If anyone stopped running, we all had to start over. Afterwards, we lined up for lukewarm water, sweat dripping into our eyes, off our chins, and pooling around our shoes.

I didn’t want to run again ever, until 2012, when everything changed. One friend of mine died and another became very ill with a degenerative disease. While overwhelmed with grief for them, I noticed that a lot of people I knew were starting to run. I couldn’t conceive of a reason why anyone would take up such a hobby. The mere thought of it overwhelmed my memory with images of stern coaches, whistles at the ready, yelling to add another lap. I remembered the heat and the thirst, and the way my heart pounded and my lungs burned.

But you get to a point when you’re out of shape and decide to either accept yourself the way you are or make a change. After nearly a decade of infertility, I’d given up on my body ever doing anything I wanted it to do.

Yet the death of my friend inspired me to make a change.

I saw my friends rejoicing in the stress relief and pride they got through running, beaming in photos at their 5K finish lines. They had something in common, something that appealed to me. They felt alive when they ran.

And in the shadow of my friends’ death and illness, I wanted to feel alive, too. Not just for me, but for them. When I remembered my teenage disdain for running and the burning lungs and aching legs, it occurred to me that every single day, people die too young all over this planet. Wouldn’t they give anything to have one more day to walk on this earth, let alone run?

And so, with more than 60 pounds to lose, I strapped on a new pair of running shoes, downloaded a training app, and wondered if I should warn my neighbors: “Hey, gang, if you see something disturbing prowling the streets, it’s just me. I’m becoming a runner.”

After twelve years of infertility, I was pregnant.

With my friends on my mind, I started up the hill in front of our house.

It had to be a hill.

I don’t know if you could call what I was doing “running.” I called it a “sloppy jog” for so long that I began to refer to my runs as “going slogging.”

Each time I went slogging instead of sleeping or eating or shopping, I was taking back control of my body. Soon, I was managing longer runs. A six-mile workout was not uncommon on the weekends.

Finally, in the fall of 2014, I ran my first half marathon. It was beautiful and exhilarating and one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life. But it was also 13.1 miles of fun. And I slogged them in honor of my friend who died too soon.

Running didn’t change my appearance much. I didn’t lose 60 pounds. From the inside, though, I changed. Six months after running that half marathon, my body did something completely new and different. After twelve years of infertility, I was pregnant.

New life.

Becoming a runner was a life-altering experience for me. Each dull thud of my shoes against pavement carried me closer to the confidence and self-satisfaction that being a runner provided. The old me, the one I’d given up on, was still in there.

I just had to run far enough to find her.

~Kelly A. Smith

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