Runner Profile – Ronnie Ashford, the Flashlight Runner
Participants in our 2012 event may remember the inspiring story of Ronnie Ashford, the “Flashlight Runner.” Ronnie completed her first marathon at the 2012 Williams Route 66 Marathon and was our very last finisher that day. In just under 12 hours, the Navy veteran and mother of three crossed the finish line with her very own police escort and a finisher’s area lit up by both car headlights and the smiles of the Route 66 Marathon committee. Ronnie is coming back to run the half marathon in 2016, so we caught up with her to learn more of her story!
Ronnie started her running journey on November 11, 2011 – Veteran’s Day – with an 11-mile walk to honor veterans. That’s right – 11 miles on 11/11/11! After completing her walk, she decided to see how far she could take her health and fitness journey and lost 50 pounds in the process. Despite completing one official marathon and six official half marathons, Ronnie is hesitant to call herself a runner. “I am learning to run!” she says. “I have no muscle memory of how to do this thing called running! My goal is to really learn how! My run is about as fast as I can walk and not for more than 100 yards at a time. The furthest I have ever run continuously was a quarter-mile!” Whether walking or running, Ronnie is constantly putting one foot in front of the other and reaching towards her goals.
That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, though. Ronnie knows what it is like to struggle through weight loss and maintaining a training plan when the going gets tough, and she understands the challenges that many of us face. “The most challenging part of maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is juggling life and all the demands, “have to’s,” commitments and my inner negative voice that works to sidetrack me from sticking with my goals for weight loss and training,” Ronnie says. “It is so easy when life throws the obstacles that look overwhelming in my path to feel sorry for myself and go back to my old habit of nurturing myself with a treat of food and curling up on the couch.” When life gets in the way, she reminds herself that her body hurts and is sore when it doesn’t move, too – she’d rather be sore from moving!
Ronnie wants new runners and first-time participants in the Route 66 Marathon to know that there is nothing to fear, even though training might get tough at times. “The number one thing I learned was that it will hurt some to stretch muscles and ligaments and thought patterns, but it is good to feel that! It’s not a reason to stop,” she says. “Start and keep going!” It’s all worth it on race day, and the Route 66 Marathon is one of the best places to celebrate your accomplishments. “For me, it is all about the celebration!” Ronnie responds when asked about her favorite parts of the race. “ The new memories to be made with my family and friends, to the stories from teams, Marathon Maniacs, volunteers, individual runners , family members cheering, and neighbors along the route, each with their own stories for why they are participating in this race! My favorite part is the all-encompassing support I feel from so many folks!”
So for those who might be on the fence about participating in the 2021 Williams Route 66 Marathon events, take it from the Flashlight Runner herself. “I have experienced so many levels of change since I started running. I just feel better when I’m working on myself. Get started, set a goal, pick a race and sign up, lace up your shoes and get moving!”
note: Ronnie has participated in 7 Route 66 Marathon events. The feature photo is from Ronnie’s 2019 5k.