Workouts and Grief : Did Running Just Save My Soul?


trigger warning: ectopic pregnancy

“Unfortunately, this is not good news”  

The doctor’s formality could not hide the discouragement on his face. The heartbeat before I had been full of butterflies and anticipation. I blinked my eyes and it was all gone.

I accepted the string of ultrasound papers as he handed them to me, showing me the evidence of my body’s failure.

A mumble of words: ectopic, hormone levels, percentages, procedures. 

I tried not to cry in the office. Had I really gotten my hopes up?

Through the parking lot. 

This is so silly. Hold it together. This is so silly. It’s only been 10 weeks this time. You haven’t even told anyone. This ok. You’re ok. 

I collapsed into my front seat, and cried. A sad silent cry for a baby that wasn’t meant to be. 

I went home, and did the only thing I could do with all those emotions: I ran. 

I started running when my mom got sick.

I was not a “runner” then, and I am still not a “runner”. In fact as exercise goes, I’m basically the anti. I’m clumsy, I’m awkward. I’m Phoebe from Friends. My mom, the PE major, must have been mortified at my adolescent tv watching ways.

There were no sports teams, no practices. No travel tournaments or trophies. In fact, I spent most days sitting out at PE, (thanks, asthma), or just staying as quiet as possible and hoping it would end quickly. Zero athletic skillz is what I’m getting at. Just never was my thing. 

The working out regularly didn’t come until later, accidentally really, when I wound up living in a beach town (heeeey Destin), completely covered up in grief with a mother who was being taken from me too soon. 

It was her idea I go for a run (why was she always right?). 

So I did. Mostly to prove to her wrong of course. I would die out there much faster than any cancer could ever take her, and then who would take care of her? Please don’t flinch at that–in the throes of the C word, humor and snark were the only things we got to keep. 

Well, surprise, she was right. My head was clear. For the first time in weeks I felt lighter. I mean that was after, I felt like a bag of rocks out there while it was happening. 

But I got up, and did it again the next day. And the next. 

The grief was like fuel. The angrier I was, the better the runs were. And the better I felt when they were over. It was January. It was too frigging cold to be running down Holiday Isle. But I ran. One foot in front of the other. February came and went, and left me cold and cussing all the way to Norriego Point and back. Sometimes stopping to cry. 

By the end of April she was gone. And the runs were all I had left. 

In May I ran while I contemplated moving to Costa Rica. 

By October, I was counting the Monarchs on my runs. 

The Aprils and Octobers passed, and I kept going. I started dating my now-husband and he ran with me up and down Holiday Isle. Smoking me every time, but out there with me all the same.

Life happened and I held on for the ride, using the runs to keep me sane. Using them to help me breathe.

To forget.

And then later, to remember. 

So, when I found out there would be no baby, I ran. 

Since then we’ve moved a million times. We’ve had babies. There have been celebrations and friends, tears of happiness, and sheer awe at how awesome life is. The grief, the heaviness of loss isn’t always there, but it’s never really gone either. 

Like a pendulum the grief swings back and forth. The ache of needing to pick up the phone and call my mom when the Rockettes are on TV. Or to ask her how she recovered from her own miscarriage. To explain that the granddaughter she never met, with her eyes and my smart mouth, just refused tennis lessons because she “doesn’t do sports with nets”, thank you very much. From perfect happiness to profound sadness, and back again. 

But in the background of it all, one thing my mama told me holds true:

“Go for a run, Sara. You’ll feel better.” 

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Sara Tallent
Sara is a Nashville native, so Destin has been part of her vacation DNA for as long as she can remember. She and her husband Chris have two giggly little girls, Hadley and Lyla. Sara lived in Spain and New Orleans before calling Destin home for the first time. After a few years as a High School Spanish teacher, and a few more moves to solidify their gypsy status, she and her family wound up right back on the Emerald Coast. On the weekends you’ll find her with a camera, trying to coax her kids into staying still for "just one more". She dreams in Spanish, can dance a mean salsa, and can’t say no to an afternoon in Seaside. Follow her on instagram @saratallent


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