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“Flashlight Finisher” Named 2013 Tovander Award Recipient

“Flashlight Finisher” Named 2013 Tovander Award Recipient

Navy vet Rogene ‘Ronnie’ Ashford finished 2012 marathon in 12 hours; Returns to do half marathon this year

Ronnie AshfordThe Williams Route 66 Marathon board of directors, along with the Tovander family, today announced Rogene ‘Ronnie’ Ashford as the 2013 Kjell Tovander Award recipient. Ashford will be honored Saturday evening, Nov. 23, during the race’s annual V.I.P. party at the Zarrow Center for Art and Education in downtown Tulsa.

The award recognizes a person who demonstrates exceptional strength and determination and is named in honor of Kjell Tovander who passed away while trying to complete the Williams Route 66 Half Marathon on Nov. 16, 2008.  Tovander, only 21 at the time of his death, was the valedictorian of his high school class, spent three years studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was preparing for a career in the Navy.

“Remembering Kjell’s incredible determination and sense of purpose brings our family so much joy,” said Margaux Tovander, Kjell’s mother. “Ronnie’s amazing drive to challenge herself to try new things and accomplish new goals is truly inspiring. She is the ideal person to receive this award in Kjell’s name and it’s wonderful that the Williams Route 66 Marathon continues to honor Kjell’s memory in this way.”

Ashford, 63, became something of a sensation after the 2012 Williams Route 66 Marathon when she finished the event in just under twelve hours, escorted to the finish line by her friends she calls her “quilting buddies,” as well as her own police escort with lights a-blazing. Race officials lit up the finish line area with car headlights and restarted the race clock to put on quite a greeting for this Navy veteran who also is a licensed professional counselor, an adjunct professor and a mother of three grown sons.

“My daddy always told me, ‘Never back up more than you have to,’” said Ashford, referring to the motto she says means you must go forward in your life because you cannot go back. She said her mother often told her to “go wash your face with cold water and go on” when she was a teenager struggling with difficult situations. Ashford said she also lives by the quote “get busy living or get busy dying.” For the record, this woman stays very busy.

Ashford has struggled to maintain a healthy weight for most of her life and has not always been an active person who exercised regularly. That did not preclude her from deciding to walk eleven miles on 11/11/11 in honor of all American veterans. She was successful in that journey and decided she wanted to see just how far she could go with an exercise plan and a more healthful diet.

Since 2011, Ashford has lost fifty pounds and she said she has gained physical and mental strength from her training.

“I’ve learned so much more about how my mind works,” said Ashford. She said she has learned to stop the negative self-talk that often keeps people from accomplishing their goals. “I have named my bad side ‘Maxine,’ so when she starts her negativity I can tell her to “shut up,” Ashford explained.

“We have thousands of participants each year, and many memorable people cross the finish line, but Ronnie is a person we will always remember,” said Chris Lieberman, executive director of the Williams Route 66 Marathon. “She’s one-in-a-million and someone who is very special to our race. We are so happy to have her back this year and couldn’t be happier that her whole family is joining her on the course this time.”

All three of Ashford’s sons and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law will also participate in the weekend’s races. Two sons, Eric and Sigh Mondloch will run the marathon, while Dale Mondloch and Sigh’s fiancé, Shelby Franks, will run the half marathon along with Ashford.

“As a family, we are incredibly honored and proud that our mother has been chosen as the recipient of this award. Her inspirational journey and a lifelong commitment to enriching the lives of those around her embodies the spirit of the Kjell Tovander Award, and humbly serves as a fitting tribute to the memory of such an inspiring and talented young man,” said Eric Mondloch. “Her inspirational completion of last year’s marathon highlighted her personal determination and resolve, and it undoubtedly, and more importantly, demonstrated to countless others the empowering belief that through effort and dedication, anything is truly possible,” Mondloch said.