Just another avid crazy runner (what more can I say, fellow runners can relate!) My name is Ashley and I’m 25 years old currently residing in Northern Virginia. I originally started writing as a running blog for my own personal use and organization and then it all took off into so much more.
My passion for running has helped spur me to see new places and discover how much I enjoy nature and photography. My treks across Virginia led me to discover that I really wanted to see everything our world has to offer.
My biggest exploration was to Iceland last fall, which really kicked my love of adventure and traveling into high gear and opened up my eyes to the natural beauty of the world. After Iceland I started seeking adventure everywhere I went. I started chasing waterfalls and discovering new places, near and far.
Every weekend turned into an adventure and every day offered a chance to see more in the world. I started taking advantage of the mantra of living life to the fullest because life is too short not too.
Mother Nature and all of her beauty has never ceased to amaze me. Nature has helped fuel a sense of excitement and joy that I have not felt in a long time. Exploring and traveling has helped to fill the empty void in my emotions and life. Running and traveling has led me to not only finding myself, but I have been able to gain the confidence that I never knew I even had and I can finally say and mean that I am happy. I am here to show you that you can do the same 🙂
I started posting about my runs on Instagram and Facebook hoping to encourage others to get there. I did not expect much from it and was surprised when my pictures started increasing in popularity. The amount of support and feedback I have received from people all over the world has been phenomenal.
I have even been featured on REI, the National Park Foundation, L.L. Bean, Recreation News, Ragnar and more! It has been very encouraging to hear how my posts have inspired others to get out there. My love of adventuring and nature will take me to the best that mother nature has to offer and beyond. I am honored to be able to share my experiences with you all and I hope to inspire others along the way 🙂
My Running Story
Where it all began…
I began running back in high school. I ran it all, Outdoor Track, Indoor Track, and Cross Country. I was told by my doctors not to run due to having severe anxiety attacks from PTSD, but I didn’t let that stop me (I can be pretty dág on stubborn). I ran my first half marathon back on May 31, 2015 and placed 2nd in my age group out of 46 others! This REALLY inspired me to keep going and to not give up no matter who tried to put me down.
It all started in my Junior year of High School when I decided to join the Outdoor Track team. I was very good at running during gym class (plus I seemed to be the only one to enjoy it) so I decided “Aww heck, why not just join the Track team?” and that is exactly what I did. I started off sprinting in the Spring of 2009. Sprinting was okay, but distance is where I truly belonged. I joined the Cross Country Team in August of 2009. I was so much better at distance and much rather preferred doing distance runs compared to running monotonous circles on a boring track.
Around this time I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder along with severe depression and anxiety. I was going through the hardest moment of my life. Something that no teenage girl should ever have to go through. I was sexually abused for two years and it was all finally coming to light. It has definitely gotten a lot easier to talk about over the years and I heavily debated even saying anything about it on here. I am not afraid of it anymore and that situation has definitely made me into the strong woman that I am today.
Running was my outlet. I just wanted to run away from it all, literally. Just run and never come back. Running always seemed to be my breaking point though. With everything I had going on, I was pushing myself too much emotionally, mentally and physically. I had several severe anxiety attacks happen during practice. I had them really bad to the point where I could not breathe and my body would start to go numb. I always felt like I was dying and I truly was on the inside. I was hospitalized many times for it and it was quite embarrassing.
There was a time that I remember so clearly at a track meet my school was hosting. I remember my whole team getting disqualified for not checking in because I was having an attack. I felt so humiliated, but I did not want to give up. I was stubborn as a bull (I am a Taurus after all). Running was my one place to get away. It was a way to escape all the craziness going on in my life. It was also a good way to stay social and keep out of the house. Home was the last place I wanted to be. I told myself I was not going to let these attacks stop me. My doctor told me not to continue running, especially with the amount of attacks I was having and the amount of medication I was on. I was taking around 8 pills a day. It did not help that I was not sleeping at all either. My friends kept a brown paper bag in a locker for me (which I think is funny looking back on it now). I used it every time I was hyperventilating to help with my breathing. I do not think they ever knew what was really going on (I was never one to open up), but they all did their best to help me. A lot of people did and I am forever thankful to those who helped me along the way. I would not be where I am today without them.
I continued to run the entirety of my senior year in high school. It was a HUGE battle that never seemed to end. The countless hospitalizations, anxiety attacks, meetings with Victim Witness, Attorneys, police, my crisis counseling, the battle with suicide, many missed days of school, being in constant fear, the flashbacks, triggers, not being able to sleep, or eat, and the list goes on. I felt like a bomb was being dropped on me every single day. I remember being so behind in school I had to make up 9 tests. When I thought that things could not get any worse I lost my best friend of 9 years, my dog Diamond, on March 26, 2010.
She was hit by a car and it was the absolute worst time for her to go. I remember so vividly after my mother played the message on our answering machine, running out of the house late at night shrieking at the top of my lungs, trying to look for her dead body. I was not close to anyone at all in my family and Diamond was always there for me when I needed a hug or just someone to talk to. She loved me just the way I was and she never looked at me any different despite everything I was going through (and that is exactly what I needed). I ended up finding her dog tags and blood up on the main road. I remember being on the phone with a good friend shouting and crying. “You said things would get better!”, not understanding why life was relentlessly killing me. One lady witnessed the accident and was so upset by what she saw that her mother had to call me to break the bad news. Diamond was hit by two cars and I could not believe that my poor baby was gone. Some people across the street ended up having her body so animal control would not take her away. I buried her in my backyard and made her the best damn grave around. A night I will never forget.
Words cannot even begin to describe the amount of pain and suffering I was going through. I am surprised I even got through it all. I honestly would probably be dead if it were not for my wonderful teachers, counselor, advocate and attorney supporting me. Life was constantly testing me every single day. It was a constant battle just trying to stay alive. There were times when I could not take the pain anymore and I overdosed more than once. One big thing that really helped me was Hope. Hope for a future and a better life. Hoping that this would all be over soon. Hoping there was more to life than all the hurt and pain I was going through. I needed something to hang on to and Hope was the light at the end of the dark tunnel that I so desperately longed for. During this time I created an email called looking4hope. I would anonymously reach out to people seeking advice and Hope stuck with me ever since. Everything in my life seemed to be going wrong at that moment. I could have chosen to give up (there were times when I came so close to it), but I chose to control what I could in my life. One big thing I did not let slip were my grades. My grades were something that I could control and this helped give me Hope. I was not going to let what I was going through destroy me. I had to keep fighting and running definitely helped. I missed MANY days in school. I remember missing so many days that I had to get approved by the Principal in order to not take my final exams. Something else I learned during this time is that it is OKAY to ask for help. No matter what you are going through you DO NOT have to do it alone. There are people out there that understand. I constantly felt bad and thought I was just burdening others, but looking back, all the people I reached out to were right. I was young, self-conscious, and insecure, but I knew I could not do it alone. I am glad they encouraged me to reach out and I want to be able help return the favor. I want to be able to take what I have experienced and learned to help others. With PTSD, panic attack disorder, severe depression and anxiety, life was a constant battle. I was able to surprise everyone at the end of the year by making Straight A’s despite everything I was going through. I was surprised when my guidance counselor told me that my GPA was a 4.2. I was not going to let what happen to me win. Given my situation, I was not able to apply to the colleges I wanted to go to. My father went to Old Dominion University and wanted me to go there as well. I was disappointed that ODU did not have a track team. College kept me pretty busy. I still ran from time to time, but not as much as I would have liked to. I ended up joining the Women’s Rugby team and played for 3 years which was a great experience!
My position on the team was mainly a wing. I was always a Back because I was fast. For those of you who don’t know (and probably won’t be surprised), I was that crazy fast runner people would throw the ball to and I would take off and run (as seen below). I did play for the local Richmond teams and debated about joining again. I found it easier to just run on my own time, plus the amount of injuries and bruises I received were no fun.
Now that I have graduated and I am working full time, I am back on the path of running again. Hoping to make a difference in someone else’s life. I want people to know that there is Hope out there. No matter how difficult life may be. Here’s to running for Hope.