How Running Changed My Life

I was in fifth grade.

And it was my least favorite day of the year.

I know it was Fall because I remember being told to dress warm.

And I remember complaining that the cool air made it harder to breathe.

But my gym teacher didn’t really care if I liked warm or cool weather- we must accomplish the task at hand. It was the infamous “mile day” at school. We had to run around the playground and school four times….but it felt like forty-four times.

I wanted my mom to call me in sick.

No, I actually wanted to break my leg.

Maybe I could trip over a crack in the sidewalk on the way to school.

Or fall off my bike. Yes, that’s it!

I’d fall off my bike and then I’d be out of the timed mile.

As I rode my bike to school that day, I remembered the plan I thought of the night before. It’s simple. Just crash your bike. You don’t have to get hurt THAT bad – you can fake some of your injury.

But alas- I didn’t have the balls to wreck my bike. So I peddled along and tried not to cry thinking about my least favorite day of the year – with lice check day being a close second. Seriously- don’t act like you didn’t fear lice check day too. It’s like a random drug search at school – you aren’t warned it’s going to happen and you secretly worry the person next to your coat (or locker) is going to screw you over. Anyway, lice check day is another blog post…moving along!

It’s not that I couldn’t run. I was physically capable of running. But I was overweight, which meant that I would be one of the last kids to finish. If not THE last kid to finish.

And I felt that finishing last would be one more thing the kids could use against me when they taunted me about my height and weight.

I hated running.

And I hated mile day at school.

Flash forward 15 years…..

I’m not that insecure, chubby girl that gets teased and picked last for everything. 

Well, chubby – maybe (I mean, I just had a baby!!!) – but my self-esteem is higher than ever before.

Three years ago (as of yesterday actually), I ran my first half marathon.

And the hilarious part? Remember how I told you that I wanted to get out of mile day at school by wrecking my bike? Well, I got in an awful bike accident the week OF my first half marathon! I share the full story of that bike accident in this blog post: Always Wear Your Helmet

But in a nutshell, Justin and I went on an evening bike ride the Monday of race week. I wanted to “take it easy” and not injury myself before the big day. That plan completely back fired and I ended up crashing into a guard rail.

As a result, I had bruised ribs, scraps all over my hands and elbows, and a gigantic bruise on my hip! My bike was ruined – I actually had to push it back to our apartment- two miles away! I am chuckling now as I remember that walk home:

“We walked home in silence, only to the sound of the rhythmic squeal from the wheel. Then a laugh. Then a moan from me. Then another laugh.”

Despite that awful bike accident, I decided to run the race: To Run or Not to Run, That is Thy Question  is the blog post that explains why I made the decision to run.

Running toward the finish line!

The best running partners a girl could have for her first race!

Dancing across the finish line. Obviously.

The best cheerleaders!

And once I danced across that finish line, I said goodbye to that insecure fifth grade girl living inside of me. I proved all of those kids wrong who said I was weak or slow or incapable of being a good asset to their team.

I was surrounded by loving and supportive people. I was sore – extremely SORE – but I was inspired. I went home that very day and signed up for my next half marathon.

Since then, I’ve completed five half marathons, two full marathon relays, and countless 5Ks.

I’ve achieved new records and personal bests with friends by my side!
And I’ve ran races where my friends stuck by my side when I’ve done my personal worst.
Brittany – I adore you and I wouldn’t be the runner I am today with you staying my side and encouraging me through every single race! xoxo!

I’ve raised nearly $700 by running and fundraising for the American Heart Association.

I’ve ran races in extreme heat!

And bundled up for races in cold months!

I’ve worn my medal as a fashion statement.

I inspired my mom and brother to run their first race!
I’ve logged many, many miles with my best friend.

Amd I’ve made best friends with complete strangers!

And I’ve met people who inspired me to finish when I wanted to give up.

I’ve had fabulous race photos.

And hilarious ones too.

I’ve ran fast.

And walked slow.
I crossed the finish line five months pregnant.
Coop’s first race.

But no matter the race – no matter the distance – I always had fun.

 My transformation all started with a single decision.

A single plan to run a race.

At first, I simply wanted to lose weight.

And sure, I lost those extra pounds holding me down -both physically and emotionally. But I gained so much more…

I went from hating running to living for running.

I went from a weak, insecure girl to a strong, confident woman.

I went from having no fitness motivation to living off a half marathon training plan.

Today, I believe in myself.

I run toward new challenges instead of running away.

I have balance in my life.

I have an outlet for managing stress.

I have a way to set and achieve both personal and fitness goals.

I am confident in my strength – both mental and physical.

And I wouldn’t be this person without running.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not an amazing runner. I’ve struggled through countless miles. Cried thought lots more. I’m slow. I take walking breaks. And I certainly have room to improve. But that’s the fun part – knowing that with each step I take- I am becoming better and stronger!

 I’m so thankful for all of the people, races, friendships, distances, medals, memories, and stories that running has brought into my life.

As a new mother, I’m overly excited to share this passion with my son. I dream of us running races together and living a fit, active life. Maybe I can inspire him to LOVE mile day at school. But I suppose if he hates running – he can at least come cheer me on, right?  He will make a pretty cute spectator.

Much love,
Ashley

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