She Walked 1,000 Miles in Tribute to Her Late Brother

Denise Valuk shares how walking helped to overcome her grief over losing her beloved brother, who died in an automobile accident.

Read Denise's inspiring story from the December 2017 issue of Guideposts!

My name is Denise Valuk, and I do several things: I do some freelance writing for different publications, and I'm also a stay-at-home parent and I also run a kids program at our church.

Back in 2015, I decided to start walking because at the beginning of the year, I was just feeling really out of shape and depressed. My younger brother had died in a car accident a few months before and I was having a really difficult time dealing with it. And I just decided I needed to do something different with my life and just try to figure out...if I could feel physically better, maybe emotionally I would start feeling better as well. 

So I just woke up—at the beginning of the year, it was our wedding anniversary and my husband and I went hiking, which we hadn't done together in years, and after that hike, I just felt like I had accomplished something really great, and from then on, I just kept walking. And it was hard; at the beginning, I could only go two or three miles at a time, but the longer I walked and the more places we went and the more hills we climbed, the better I felt.

It was going really well until about July—I was up to hiking about 7 or 8 miles at a time, and I injured my ankle while I was hiking. I sprained it and not very intelligently decided to walk back to my car instead of calling for help. That was a real challenge, to keep up this walking at that point, but after a few weeks, it healed—somewhat—and I was able to keep going. 

I didn't have a set goal in mind, but around May or so, I decided that I needed to come up with a goal and it just came to me while I was out one day that I wanted to walk a thousand miles that year. And I had already been tracking my mileage, just writing down how many miles I walked a day, and I was only at, like, 300-and-something miles, but I just came up with a thounsand. I just made it a goal and started, every week, trying to see how many miles I could walk.

The more I walked, the better I felt emotionally. I still missed my brother but the time out in nature was really good for me; it made me think of things we had done as kids. We'd spend a lot of time outside—at the lake and going hunting and going fishing and things like that. So it was just really a good time to reconnect. 

My body got stronger and I started feeling better, and by the end of the year I managed to make that goal, and the very last walk that we did—I had my husband along and we went on a 14-mile hike at the state park by our house, and it was tough. Those last few miles were really hard, but when we finished, I just felt like I had accomplished something really big, and it just felt good. And it just proved that no matter how old you are or how out of shape you are or how difficult your circumstances, if you put your mind to something, you can do it.

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