If you have spent any time on the two-mile trail around Foster Park this fall, you might have caught a glimpse of Leah Hall running past with the rest of the Bishop Luers Cross Country team. At practice, the high school senior is a blur with a brunette ponytail and an armful of roadside rubbish from food wrappers to paper cups.
The practice actually has a name: plogging. It’s a trend that started in Sweden around 2016. Plogging is a combination of “jogging” and the Swedish “plocka upp” or picking up litter. As a workout, plogging provides participants variation in body movement by adding bending, squatting and stretching to the main activity of running.
There’s even a Fort Wayne Plogging Group on Facebook that organizes meetups for runners to get together, exercise and pick up litter.
However, Hall said she had no idea what plogging was or that it was a growing trend. She just started doing it one day this season. Each practice, the cross country team runs four or five miles around Foster Park.
During practice, she runs past a stretch of Bluffton Road that is always littered with trash. She thought, “Why not?” It seemed silly to just run past it every day, so she reached down and picked it up. At the end of practice, she throws it away.
“Whenever I’m running down there past Bluffton Road, there’s always so much trash, so sometimes during an easy run, I’m like might as well just grab it. You’ve got to respect the places around here and it was an opportunity, so why not take it?”
It’s no big deal, Hall said. Sometimes she runs with her phone in her hand while she’s listening to music, so carrying a little more doesn’t make much difference, she explained. And of course if any trash looks suspicious, she leaves it on the ground.
Head coach Nichole Wellman said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Hall, one of the captains on the team, had started picking up trash on her runs.
“That’s typical Leah to be looking out for everyone around her,” she said.
“The best word to describe Leah is just positive all the time. Incredibly positive, incredibly uplifting and motivating to everybody around her.”
The runner had a major setback early on in the season when an injury kept her out of practice for the first half of the season. Wellman said the physical therapist told Hall that she couldn’t run until the issue was resolved. It was horrible news for a senior athlete to get the first week of practice, but Hall took it in stride, Wellman said.
“She was out for at least a month and her positivity just stayed there the whole time despite as a senior having this setback after all the work she put in during the summer. She still remained present both physically and mentally for the team and just motivated them along the way despite what she was going through,” she said.
With the help of physical therapy, Hall was eventually able to do some jog walking at practice and start competing again halfway through the season. The team placed third in regional. In mid-October, the team was preparing for semi-state with high hopes for advancing to state.
After graduation, Hall plans to attend the University of Saint Francis where she will study studio art and graphic design and run cross country and track.