64. Running with the Wolf Pack

64. Running with the Wolf Pack

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Running with the Wolf Pack

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live
the rest of your life as a champion.”
 ~Muhammad Ali

I didn’t get a chance to voice my opinion about running when I joined the Women’s Army Corps. When “Aunt Sam” yelled “Double-time, march,” off we went in a cloud of dust — no matter if our feet were blistered and our lungs felt ready to pop. Basic training is serious stuff. We’d run at 5 AM or at dusk — whenever they said, wherever they said.

I’d never run in my life, save for a few laps around my high school gym. I was a true tenderfoot. The first couple of days, our platoon practiced on an oval track, but soon we were running over steep hills, across sandy beaches, along winding paths. We would have run into the ocean had the drill sergeant pointed us in that direction but (luckily) she never happened to think of it.

Did we actually want to run? No! At the outset, most of us would have voted not to run at the crack of dawn, but to stay in our bunks for a little more shut-eye. We complained, we grimaced, we cussed. It wasn’t as though we ever did anything when we got to our destination. We’d simply loop around and run back to where we’d started.

By the third week of training, we found our rhythm. We got in step and stayed in step, singing and clapping. The adventure of running as a team somehow made it seem easier. Whereas at the outset a mile seemed a sheer impossibility, soon we were chalking up three or more miles in a single stretch and hardly complaining. Our attitude had changed drastically.

No matter how exhausted we became, one thing was for sure — we never gave up. As distances increased, we became a crazed pack of wild wolves, fifty females strong, charging along together, pushing ourselves to limits we’d never even imagined. There was another hidden motivation to keep us on our feet. When we weren’t running, we were stuck in the barracks either scrubbing (a floor, a toilet, a hallway) or polishing (shoes, boots, anything metal), so running had distinct advantages.

We never ran indoors. No matter if we would encounter sheets of rain, blinding sandstorms or even late snow flurries, we’d be outside in the fresh air — left, right, left, right — so many hundreds of thousands of steps you couldn’t keep count. Running in our pack had become our way of life.

As all things do, our eight weeks of basic training drew to a close and it was time for fifty fast friends to part ways. Some would be shipped off to Korea, others to bases around the U.S., many of us to Europe.

The night before our graduation from basic training, we sat in a circle, our feet soaking in buckets of hot water. We laughed about how inept we’d been those first few days — how slow, how clumsy. It seemed a lifetime ago. At our graduation ceremony, we marched around the parade field at a normal walking pace. In our hearts we knew we were a wolf pack of strong women warriors — ready to run, run, run up against anything that dared to get in our way.

~Roberta Beach Jacobson

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