I can mostly be defined by three major decisions I’ve made in my life (so far). The first was when I was six-years old, I came home from the barn, sat my parents down and informed them that I was never eating animals again. It wasn’t quite that simple, as my parents had no idea how to feed a vegetarian and my diet was mostly Oreos and french fries. In those days Oreos were made with lard, so really it was a slow start. But, it began to paint the picture of an animal lover, who one day might master vegetarianism. The next two decisions, more self-explanatory, really defined the things that keep my fire burning bright through thick and thin. They bring the highest highs and lowest lows, becoming a mom and becoming a runner.
When did you start running and what inspired you to start?
Well, running was never really my thing. I had every excuse in the book ready for PE on running days. As an adult, I had started walking and hiking on a daily basis. After my first son was born, I would leave him with my husband for a walk or hike, come back an hour or so later and all was well. However, after the birth of my second son, the look of terror in his eye when I left him with a newborn and a toddler for a hike made me rethink my plans. I had a neighbor (that I will FOREVER be grateful to) that proposed meeting at 6 AM on our corner and “running” 3 miles. I was 29, a mom of two, and I had NEVER been in so much pain as those first 3 miles. The side aches I remembered from childhood came rushing back, my knees, hips everything hurt and to add insult to injury, when I stopped my legs turned bright red and itched like I had been attacked by fleas.
So, I guess it wasn’t love at first lap. As a matter of fact it wasn’t love for a long, long time. But, we stuck with it. She stuck with me and I kept trying. I’d say it took at least 3-months of daily running before I felt like my body knew what was happening.
What has been the biggest lesson running has taught you?
Running shows me almost daily that tides will change, that hard can turn easy, easy can become hard, that what I need to do is focus on persevering. It’s given me faith in my ability to get through the toughest stuff, and how to be present and appreciate those painless magical free-flying miles.
How do you stay motivated to keep running on days you don’t want to get out the door?
I joke that I’m a ‘co-dependent’ runner, but I’m not sure it’s really a joke! I organize friends, set-up group texts, anything to make sure I have someone to meet for a run. One of the best things I’ve done is joined a group track work-out, making that dreaded day one of my favorites.
What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to running?
Finding the balance between the much needed training/me time, and my family. As much as I love running and it brings me so much joy, sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay to miss a day or week, to experience life. I wish I could suppress that, “Ashlee didn’t run today, so she’s grumpy.”
Who has been your biggest inspiration to get you going?
Inspiration is alive and well in the running community. Running is a ‘suffer sport’ and anytime I see someone out there trying to make it happen, I’m inspired. New, young, old, elite or weekend warriors, it doesn’t matter, I’m impressed.
The last two years I’ve taken on new challenges in running. Inspired by my kids and the way they jump into sports despite the fact that they aren’ t naturally talented. I watch them work, I see their resiliency and it makes me want to knock down the walls I’ve put up for myself. I was told I was too tall to excel in trail running, so that was my first goal. I ran my first 50K a year ago, and this summer when I completed my third big trail race, the Cortina Trail 48K, I was, for the first time, really proud of myself for the work I put in, for believing in myself when I knew others had their doubts, and facing a lot of my fears on those super technical trails. Coming into the finish was one of my happiest moments, that moment when you’ve defied even what you thought possible. My second challenge was to try cross-country this fall. I’ve always thought, “Hmmm, cross-country, what a nice sport!” Now, I can just laugh at that sweet naive image I had. Cross-Country is raw, it is fast, fierce, unbelievably hard, and unforgiving. But, surviving a cross-country race? Fabulous. There’s nothing quite like it. Having completed my first season of cross-country I have so much admiration for the kids that race XC. One more place to find inspiration, in those sweet, smart, XC kids, that go out and race their hearts out, for their themselves, their teams and their schools.
What are your favorite shoes to run in?
I have a shoe problem. There, I said it. Buuuut, since you asked, I’ll tell you about it. I rotate 3-4 pairs of shoes, depending on what I’m working on. My workhorse shoe, tried and true, is the Brook’s Launch. It runs a hair small and you might need to size up if you’re thinking about trying it. It’s a light, neutral shoe that I use for marathon training, all my long runs, and any race over 13.1. For my faster workouts, I love the New Balance 1400’s, I use them for track, tempo and racing the 13.1! I like to keep a steady diet of trails in my mix, so my third shoe is a trail shoe. I use the Saucony Peregrine for almost all my trail miles and they are awesome!! I’ve used them in conditions from water crossings (they drain quickly), to sand in the desert, to the most technical trails in the Dolomites, I can’t say enough good things about them. The fourth pair of shoes depends on what race I’m getting ready for, I have the Brook’s Mach 18 in my closet (a spike-less spike for XC), the Brook’s Ghost for a softer road recovery shoe (during Marathon training), but currently my fourth shoe is a lighter, faster trail shoe from Hoka that I’m super excited about.
What does healthy mean to you?
Moderation. Moderation in everything. And, I say that, not being the most moderate person myself, but I try. When I strip it down, I know what feels healthy for me, and that’s good food, daily exercise and a full heart. But, the truth is, all three of those things are great luxuries in today’s world. I picture the three as buckets and I try to keep them in balance, when they’re out of balance, I think about what I need to do to bring it back. I don’t use hard deadlines or diets, I try and implement small steps to get back to where I want to be. Sometimes, it also means asking for help. A friend to watch the kids, so you can get a short run. When my heart bucket is low, sometimes all I need to do is help someone else and spreading a little love usually brings it back too. Healthy is not just a solo pursuit, I think it’s important to fill your life with healthy people. It’s okay to move away from relationships you find toxic. Healthy is a constant, evolving element in my life. I try to make decisions based on what is healthy for me, while balancing what it means to those I love and how it is healthy for them too. And, laughter. I love to laugh; bring on the smiles, bad jokes and cute animals, I’m pretty sure all those things help me stay healthy.
How has running effected other aspects of your life?
Running brings clarity to rest of my life. After a run, I can step back and see multiple sides of situations and come to solutions in a much more balanced and methodical way (especially if my run buddies help me). It helps me to keep up with my kids, take on challenges, believe in myself. Taking on running challenges has showed me that walls can become doors. And, best of all, running makes food taste even better!!
What advice do you have for new runners?
Moderation. Make goals for yourself that start simple. Runners, also walk. Remember that getting out the door and running any part of your journey is a success. Don’t be hard on yourself, focus on your victories, no matter how big or small, do not spend time on negatives or presumed failures, there is no failure in trying. It took me months to get to a full 3-mile run, months of walk/running, walk/running/sitting on the curb, months of hurting and showing my body it could do something it thought impossible. You can do it, take your time.