GUEST BLOG #5 – Why do you run?

Hello and happy Global Running Day! Hope you managed to get out and log some miles on this happy Wednesday. I didn’t unfortunately, but that’s another story.

So this guest blog is by the fabulous Ashley – you can check her out on Instagram here and her blog here.  I’ve only been following Ashley on IG for a short while, but I absolutely love her account – if you are into Disney, running, or Lilly Pulitzer clothing, you defo need to check her out!  Enjoy!

1. Why did you start running?

I started running out of pure bling envy to be honest. It was 2013 when I was working front desk at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was the Expedition Everest Challenge 5k race weekend. I was seeing runners come in and out of the hotel with some awesome bling. I’m such a Disney fan and a runDisney medal is the one piece of Disney memorabilia I couldn’t buy. I needed to earn it. I began training immediately and my first race was the Tower of Terror 10 Miler.

2. What motivates you to keep running?

My motivation for continuing to run comes down to how I view and explore the world. Running gives me a reason to travel to new places to race. There’s nothing like seeing a city by foot. PRs (Personal Records) are great, but I’ve realized I don’t necessarily want to push myself super hard and make running feel like a job with an end goal. I stay motivated by just knowing I have the ability to move my body forward in new places. Also, the pride I feel when I cover certain distances is a feeling I never want to give up. I’ve done 5 marathons, averaging about one per year. They’re unfamiliar territory for me still and I’m honestly usually undertrained. It’s always a gamble whether I’ll finish or not, but that’s what makes finishing feel so wonderful. I hope I get to chase that feeling for a long time.

3. What is your favourite distance and why?

My favorite distance is the half marathon by leaps and bounds. I’ve run 44 so far and in years past, I’ve even managed to do 15 in one year. It was my 15 in 2015 challenge! I enjoy it because by now I have such familiarity with the distance, I never doubt that I’ll finish. That being said, it’s still long enough to really be a challenge and feel proud of my finish. I also enjoy that it’s long enough to keep you on your toes. For my half PR, I didn’t know I was going to PR until mile 11. You have to just focus on each mile individually because it’s a long enough distance to be unpredictable. Sometimes it can come down to how you distribute your energy. I’ve gone out too fast before and had to walk the last 5k. Regardless, the half marathon distance provides me with an attainable challenge that never gets old.

4. Tell me about your most memorable race.

As I mentioned before, full marathons are still a rare and unfamiliar thing to me. My most memorable race is probably the first time I did a marathon away from Walt Disney World. I had run the Walt Disney World Marathon 3 times before branching out to a different marathon. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how I would handle 26.2 miles without the distraction of theme parks and Disney characters cheering me on. I registered to run the Chicago Marathon in 2016. My first world marathon major and my first marathon with only city streets to keep me entertained. It ended up being the marathon that almost didn’t happen for me. Florida had experienced a hurricane a couple days before and all flights were still cancelled. I was so committed to not giving up on my dream that I drove to Atlanta to fly to Chicago. I arrived barely in time to get my bib from the expo. I vividly remember being nervous the night before. At the start line they did such a good job hyping everyone up. I was so excited. As we took off through downtown, I didn’t even breathe until mile 4. I’m a walk/run interval runner, but I ran the first 4 miles without a break. Near Lincoln Park we ran past a nursing home with elderly people watching us and holding signs up through their window. I’ll never forget this for as long as I live. Knowing how fortunate I am to be on the street running and one day, I may only be able to spectate. I hoped I was making them proud as I ran by. So many neighborhoods like Boystown with drag queens and Pilsen with its Mexican beer and nonstop fiesta kept me motivated. I started to grow really tired and feel a ton of pain around 30k. I wasn’t trained as well as I needed to be and I was feeling it. I walked the rest of the way and almost cried multiple times. The amazing spectators and knowing that I had to finish after all I went through to even physically be in Chicago kept me going. I barely finished before the course cut off time. It got scary at the end seeing water tables be broken down and other runners were few and far between. I had never felt more happiness than when I finished that day.

5. What did you learn about yourself training for this race?

I’d love to say I learned something about myself while training for Chicago, but the fact is I barely trained. The Chicago Marathon is in the beginning of October. Training in Florida in the summer is brutal and I’m not a treadmill girl. I guess what I learned is I shouldn’t do a marathon in early Autumn.

6. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received, and my daily mantra is “Forward is a pace”. It can be easy to get caught up in pace and PRs, but what I’ve found to be true in my years of running is no one actually cares. People are going to be proud of you no matter what. When I tell a non-runner (which is most of the population, no?) that I ran 26.2 miles, they never ask me how long it took or how fast I was. They just say “wow” and sometimes tell me I’m crazy. The running community has been so kind as well. You’d think that with a sport that prioritizes speed as success, there would be some horrible elitist attitudes. I come across it every now and then, but mostly feel accepted in any race or run club I’ve gone to. People are able to understand that what is “fast” and “successful” for some isn’t the same for others. If I’m ever having a bad day, I tell myself all that matters is that you get out the door and move.

Inspiring! And I absolutely love Ashley’s mantra. So now you’ve finished reading my blog, go check her out on Instagram/her blog!


Thanks, Gillian x


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