On Oct. 15 and 16, Ashley Martinez set out to complete the I-35 Challenge, which consists of two cities and two races on back-to-back days. Ashley ran the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Half Marathon and the IMT Des Moines Marathon, logging 39.3 miles in two days. But this avid runner's mission wasn't just to complete the races — she wanted to pay it forward to the sport that taught her that she is limitless. Ashley couldn't think of a better way to do that than by raising money as one of the first SoleMates benefitting Girls on the Run of Polk County (GOTR).
GOTR is a 10-week after-school program for girls in third through eighth grade. The program teaches girls to take care of themselves physically, emotionally and mentally. It inspires them to be joyful and confident using curriculum which creativity integrates running. At the end of the 10 weeks, the girls come together to participate in a 5K. Completing the celebratory GOTR 5K gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishing something that once seemed impossible.
As a volunteer coach at Windsor Elementary last spring, Ashley saw how the program transformed the way the girls saw themselves. She saw how it empowers them to embrace their inner beauty and push their limits. With every practice, they grew stronger physically, emotionally and mentally.
When Ashley started running four years ago, she never thought running would change her life. Running has taught her that she is capable of more than she could have ever imagined. It has pushed her to get out of her comfort zone, set goals and keep moving forward. It has given her a state of mind that says anything is possible. What she has learned as an adult through the platform of running, GOTR teaches young girls across the country every day.
Ashley has completed 21 half marathons and three marathons, but with each race she still faces moments of self-doubt; through the process she has learned that we all have the power to control feelings like these. Girls on the Run teaches girls that they each have an inner star, and although there will be times that star gets covered by clouds, we all have the choice to move those clouds and let our star shine.
"Knowing that I was doing this challenge for a reason made it so special for me," Ashley reflects on her I-35 Challenge as a SoleMate. "There were many miles that I would think about some of the girls and knew that I couldn’t give up. I wanted to run for GOTR to show girls that you don’t have to be a natural athlete to be a runner, especially a marathoner. GOTR shows girls everywhere how to unlock their full potential, and that is what running is all about. Being able to continue to reach my full potential through this challenge while raising money so other girls can find theirs is a great feeling."
Thanks, Ashley, for making an impact on girls in central Iowa!