This story is part five of a ten-part series leading up to the 2019 Sioux Falls Skedaddle. For more information about the race and how to join us on April 28, visit the website here.
For Mieke (Mee-Kay) Slaba, running isn’t a way to escape her four children, find sanity, or even to put distance between herself and the job she loves, teaching 7th and 8th graders. She doesn’t run to get away, she runs to go deeper.
“When I run, I pray. It’s my time with God.”
While other relationships in her life are able to make their needs known through hugs, tantrums, or tugs at her shirt, her spiritual health depends on her making the decision to take time to hear, see, and to feel the path she’s supposed to be on.
“One day I was running and I just looked up at the sky. Suddenly, I was just overwhelmed with the feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be, going in the right direction. I wish I could give everyone a moment like that. I wish I could make other people feel how I feel when I’m running and I’m listening.”
Her journey began in 2008, shortly after delivering her second child and deep into studying for her Master’s degree, she simply felt she was spending too much time sitting. Her husband Matt, a track coach, suggested she go for a jog. Just an easy one, a quick quarter mile.
“I fell in love. I started small, and just tried to see what I could add. Just a little at a time, then trying to do the same distance but faster. Little steps. I signed up for my first competitive race in 2014 and I was surprised how much fun it was! I started setting goals, trying to do this one at under two hours, then for the next one, just take a few minutes off.”
And then her body fought back.
“I developed bursitis of the hip. That’s going to humble you pretty fast! But it was a clear signal that this next race was just going to be for fun, and that I wasn’t going to be competing with anyone at all. But sometimes, that’s the discipline. To slow down. To go easier on yourself. At some point, we become so accustomed to pushing ourselves that the real challenge and the real strength comes in taking our time. That’s discipline.”
Working with her friend and trainer Katheryn Merrill helped Mieke rehabilitate through the bursitis, a calf strain, and other nagging injuries as she continued pacing herself.
“She really listens to me when I tell her what I can and can’t do, and she knows when to tell me to push past something, and when to stop pushing myself and listen to my body. She’s been so wonderful to work with.”
But no matter how the injuries nag, Mieke is thankful for the ache in her legs, and the ability to push them. When things get hard and she considers stopping, she thinks of her brother, Paul.
“He would love to be doing this. He would love for his legs to be aching from running. When I can’t do it for me anymore, I’ll do it for him.”
In 2015, her beloved brother Paul was in a collision that cost one person their life, and cost Paul his leg, his ability to do his job, and time with his family.
“His bravery, his ability to rebuild a life completely from scratch, his attitude. He just drives me and inspires me. We did a 5k for him in Wagner, Prayers for Paul. We just wanted to do something, to help raise money and to help raise his spirits. To let him know people really cared.”
Through her devotion to her family, to her faith, and to herself, Mieke has crossed her fair share of finish lines and isn’t ready to be done.
“Running is such a personal journey. Even when you’re doing it competitively, it’s just you. You’re the whole team. If I were talking with someone who was thinking of signing up for one of Pink Gorilla’s events, I’d have a lot to say to them…
- Just do it. Sign up. Somehow, that’s the hard part. Once you’ve registered, the anxiety falls away. You’ll be surprised!
- Don’t be afraid. It’s so much fun, if you’re the last person across, the fun is still there waiting for you.
- Start small. Just start. Go around the block. Now go around the block faster. Build it slowly, and you’ll see and feel yourself gaining momentum and becoming a stronger runner.
- Don’t let the pace overtake you. Early on, it’s easy to go fast, but you’re going for distance. Discipline yourself to maintain your pace. If you wear yourself out, it will stop being fun, and these races are SO FUN if you keep yourself safely paced!
- Don’t let anything take the fun out of it for you. There is so much joy to be found in these events. Don’t let a mindset or a goal take the fun out of it. Throw the goal away and just show up. Be present. Look around and enjoy this amazing day!
Mieke doesn’t take anything for granted. She knows the fragility of life, of health, and of strength. She also knows the infinite strength of love, family, and devotion.
We are excited to share this day with Mieke, and with all of our runners who have already registered!