Be Yourself, For Yourself

Running makes me cry.  Exhaustion makes me cry.  Come to think of it, a lot of things make me cry.  I’m an emotional sort.  I’ve been known to sob mid-Crossfit workout (you didn’t know that, did you, 6am crew?), and wail over Facebook videos of elephants reuniting and Johnson & Johnson commercials.  Oh, my poor husband.  And here, for your viewing pleasure, is the most unflattering ugly-cry picture that I could find in my preparation for this blog post:


This picture was taken just after I’d finished the Toronto Marathon in 2002, which subsequently qualified me to run the Boston marathon.  My qualifying race happened at a very pivotal time in my life- I had just moved to Toronto six weeks prior, not knowing a soul, and I set my sights on seeing the city through my long training runs, with the ultimate goal of running a Boston-qualifying time that October.  The first week of September came and went, and I was immersed and swallowed up into the intensity that is Chiropractic College.  I made fast friends, and those friends rallied around me and supported me like true friends do, even hosting a carb-loading potluck for me, and crawling out of bed on a cold Sunday morning to watch me cross the finish line and cry, cry, cry.

April 2003 rolled around, and Boston came and went.  The actual race is a blur for me; I was too high on adrenaline and I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening to take it all in.  But I remember the hills, I remember the sunburn, and I remember scanning the finishing stretch on Boylston Street for my parents, who had stood five people deep for four hours just to catch a glimpse of my dream coming true.  And it was a dream come true, as it is for many distance runners- the ultimate goal, the Shangri La of races.

After that, I ran a few more marathons.  Five in total, actually, until I realized that my desire to slog through 26.2 miles was waning.  I embraced the half-marathon, where my brain and body seemed to find a better fit.  Then I finished school, got married, started my practice, and had my babies.  And I ran through it all.  A jogging stroller is my must-have, my running wardrobe is ridiculously large, and pre-dawn runs are still common.  But running has become less I-have-to and more I-need-to; I need to feel the air in my lungs, I need to hear my feet on the ground, I need to do my very best thinking.

And now there’s another I-need-to: I need to show my children passion.  For me, that passion manifests in running.

But whatever your passion is, I hope the people around you can see it.


My three-year-old daughter and I sat together yesterday and watched the elites cross the finish line.  I tried to explain that “Mommy ran that race” and “Grandma and Grandpa came to watch.”  She asked me if she can “get big, and run that race too?”  “I’ll do it with you Mommy,” she said.  “No, I’ll do it myself,” she reconsidered.  And then she jumped off the couch and ran through the kitchen, in her sparkliest shoes and brightest pink tights, and showed me how she can “do it myself.”

Exactly, sweet girl.  Find your passion and follow it.  Be yourself, for yourself.

Running Scared?

We can put metal detectors inside stadiums.  We can put security guards inside schools.  We can put security screening inside airports.  But we cannot run a marathon without feeling vulnerable.  Not after yesterday.  Not after the carnage, the panic, the awfulness, the violence, the terror, the evil that happened in Boston.

I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003…

Race Last Name, First Name
Time OverAll
Sex Place
Div Place
DIV Net Time City, State, Country
Boston Marathon
Swelin, Ashley J. (F23) 3:45:56 6251 1124 / 889 FOpen 3:38:40 Toronto, ON, Canada

It’s been ten years since I high-fived the students cheering at Wellesley College, willed myself up Heartbreak Hill, and cried tears of pride and joy along the finishing stretch on Boylston Street.

I originally wrote today’s blog post last week, and titled it ‘Boston’- I was going to share with you all of the things that running Boston taught me.  Silly things, like how sunburned you can get over the course of 26.2 miles in Boston in April.  Inspiring things, like “you cannot run fast if you do not put in the training.  The same goes for anything in life.  Work hard”.  Special things, like how your parents will do anything for you- even come to Boston and stand five-people-deep for four hours for the chance to watch you cross the finish line. It’s been ten years since my parents stood right where yesterday’s second bomb went off.  

But you know what, fellow runners?  We must unite.  We must be strong.  We must not be scared to go to a movie, or send our kids to school and ourselves to work, or go to Boston and run a marathon. I can’t make sense of this tragedy because it’s senseless.  I can’t explain this tragedy because it’s inexplicable.  I can’t imagine this tragedy because it’s unimaginable.  But when these senseless, inexplicable, unimaginable tragedies happen, we must cope.

And the way most runners cope is to run.  We cope and we run and we run and we cope… and the miles tick by.

I’m going for a run.