Just One More Step: Ashley Kmieciak is Running for the Voiceless

Posted on May 15, 2024, by

Just one more step. This is one of the mantras I find myself repeating throughout my running journey and in my life. I find that if you can take just one more step you can keep going, even when it feels like you can’t. I know that sounds cliché but hear me out.

My name is Ashley Kmieciak and you’ll see me running my first-ever 26.2 miles during the Community First Fox Cities Marathon this September. Getting to this point has been no easy feat, but when I look at how far I’ve come, I know that running a full marathon is just one more challenge that I can conquer by taking one more step.

Let me start at the beginning. I was sexually trafficked from the ages of four-eight years old and I was raped when I was in high school. As I got older, the trauma of it all led me down a dark road that led me to addiction, smoking and a whole bunch of other bad habits that were wreaking havoc on my health. My life was headed in the wrong direction and I knew that I needed to be better, so in 2007, I did the work to kick the addiction and I got clean.

Several years after getting clean, I met my husband and had our wonderful son. Although I had started down a better path in life and overcame my addictions, around 2017-2018 I knew I had a lot more work to do so I could be better for my husband, my son and those around me.

I knew I needed to take another step and no longer be defined as a victim. It was a hard mental shift. I did a lot of triggering work with an amazing organization called Celebrate Recovery©. I also met others who had similar struggles and for the first time I didn’t feel so alone. I started to give my story a voice. I took one more step and I started to speak my truth out loud and when I did that, it no longer had power over me. I was finally taking my power back and it felt so good! Today I am proud to say that I am a recovered addict and survivor of rape, sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

After I learned to overcome my own mental traumas, I knew I needed to do something about improving my health. I very slowly started walking a block, then a mile. That walking turned into running, which turned into 5Ks, which turned into half-marathons. Now for the first time this year, thanks to my running coach from Team RunRun who has helped me prepare, I will be doing 26.2 miles, a full marathon.

Throughout this whole process my husband and my son who is 12 years old now, have been my biggest cheerleaders. I know my son sees me wake up at 5 a.m. to go for runs and sees the strength training I do on my off days to maintain my health. I take pride in showing him that his mother can overcome her difficulties and transform tough situations into positive outcomes.

I’m not just running this marathon for myself though I want to show others that you can overcome your past and it does not define who you are. I want to be a voice for those who haven’t found their voice yet. 

I want others to know you are not alone in your trauma, just as I won’t be alone on the course. 

There will be hundreds of people cheering me on and supporting me. There will be dozens of others running right alongside me, experiencing similar pain and struggles on the course when things get tough. But by knowing we’re not alone, we can take just one more step together.

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