Up on the blog is the personal journey of 2007 Footlocker National Champion, Ashley Brasovan.
When I first laid eyes on this photo I felt an array of emotion. I ‘knew’ this girl??? Not personally, in fact we have never met, never raced each other and only more recently have had mutual friends.
I knew only her to the extent that that I could tell this is not just a photo of a female runner who is happy they’re going to the Olympic Trials. So it turns out, I was right. This photo illustrates the release of a seven year roller coaster of emotion and the start of a very new journey to come.
I couldn’t help but try and imagine how Ashley could possibly be feeling in that moment. I started to smile uncontrollably and my mind slipped straight to that feeling you get after a break-through performance.
I was loosely aware of Ashley’s injury struggles at Duke and people liked to fill in the blanks of ‘What happened to the only ever footlocker national champion from the state of Florida?’
Well everyone…here she is. Ashley has showed the epitome of perseverance, battled through mental and physical struggles and is now standing here at the age of 25 in a pretty great spot. Academically, in her career and in her running life.
It’s a pretty incredible story and I’m so thankful to Ashley for sharing her journey with the Belle Lap readers and wish her all the best at the Olympic trials and beyond.
Hi. I’m Ashley. This is my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Seven years. You can do a whole lot in 7 years and you can do very little. In seven years, I graduated with both a Masters and Bachelors from Duke University, met some pretty incredible friends that I am confident are going to change the world, moved across the country to start a life in Colorado, got my dream job in energy efficiency/sustainability consulting, and traveled through 4 different continents. Not too bad. I will give myself a pat on the back for that.
However, this 7-year period starts and ends with running. Running is how I mark milestones in my life whether it is a next race, a training block, or simply a trip with running friends. Running had been a huge piece of who I was since the first time I set foot on a track in middle school. Therefore it’s appropriate that this next part of my life that we will call “College: Rounds 1 & 2” begins when I limp across the finish line my senior year of high school at the 2009 Junior World Cross Country Championships. Little did I know, running would leave me that day for the next two and a half years. I was not prepared for this.
By that race, I had already committed to run for Duke University, and luckily my coach was fully on board with taking a rest period prior to starting up my collegiate career in the fall. This would allow a mental break and some time for my body to physically heal as well. Two years and two femoral stress fractures later, I had yet to run a step in a Duke uniform. I don’t think it ended up being quite the break we had planned for.
You know what? Two years was absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of my life as I fully plan to live until at least 100 (I set high standards for myself in everything if you haven’t gathered that yet. It’s a distance runner thing). I assumed that running was just testing me and bringing out that thing some of us call patience. Well, I wasn’t quitting.
Years 3, 4, and 5 brought two more femoral stress fractures. Four of them in 5 years? Really? This had to be some kind of record…. Well on the bright side, I did get to compete a handful of times during that period even if running still was not fully being cooperative. I had also begun my Masters program to reassure my parents that I was well on my way to some sort of career path.
By that point in my life, running no longer entirely defined me as a person. I was forced into becoming an environmentalist, a better friend, a traveler, a good sister, and many other things that I would never take back. Running (or lack thereof) had made me into a better, more well-rounded human being. I was happy. I did things I never would have done 5 years years ago. I lived this thing called “life”.
Then year 6 came along. I had graduated with my Masters from Duke in May and moved to from North Carolina to Colorado to start my new life in energy efficiency and sustainability consulting. Colorado brought a new start and a new chapter to my life that I am going to call “Ashley Enters the Real World.”
Colorado had lots of running and runners. Trust me, I somewhat took this into account when accepting a job and a new place to move. About a month into “Ashley Enters the Real World”, I got a call from an old friend who happened to have moved to Colorado a few years before I had. He was doing well and said he was coaching a handful of athletes alongside his full time job. Because he loved running.
“You were so talented in high school, and I believe you still have that talent in you. I know college didn’t work out as well as you had hoped, but I know I can get you back to where you were. Just try the training for a few months and see what happens,” he says. I had absolutely no excuse and nothing to lose. “Sure. Lets do this.”
On January 3, 2016, i.e. 6 months after decided I would try this competing thing again; I crossed the finish line at the 2016 Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon in 1:14:30, a 4-minute PR and safely under the standard for the Olympic Trials next month in February. My world froze. Running was being nice to me? Well, I guess it was about time. I had been patiently waiting for approximately 7 years (not that I was counting or anything). Not one part of me had ever given up on running. Okay that’s not 100% true but MOST of me never gave up.
You can say that running and I have a love-hate relationship and it has not always been easy. This relationship has made me cry more than any guy ever will but has brought me happiness that nothing else in this world could ever do. I LOVE running, and you just shouldn’t give up on something you love that much no matter how long it takes. I waited 7 years. That’s a long time, you know? I can tell you that every second was worth the wait to be toeing the line next month at the Olympic Trials and finally being able to fully embrace running again like I did 7 years ago.
Anything is possible. You write your own story.