Wellington ultra-marathon runner Nick Ashill today begins the final leg of a 5400km run begun five years ago to raise funds for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) and the UK-based Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust.
Nick started his original fundraising run in May 2017, with the plan to cross the USA from coast to coast. He was nearly 4000km into his journey when he was deliberately hit by a truck, thrown into a ditch and left for dead.
His extensive injuries resulted in 16 surgeries and many months of gruelling recovery. He was initially warned by doctors that he would never return to running, but today he starts the final stretch, with a plan to run an average of 60km a day for the next 18 days.
Nick is excited to finally complete his mission. "I never contemplated giving up on the dream after the hit and run, despite the many setbacks and surgeries. I am so grateful for a second chance. I have no doubt running past the actual site of the hit and run will be hard, but I will be surrounded by so many incredible people," he says.
He will be joined at the start of the run in Columbus, Ohio, by three of the doctors who saved his life and accompanied by other ultra-marathon runners, supporters and those involved in his recovery along the route.
Nick is running to raise awareness and funds for respiratory illness, specifically Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) a serious condition that causes stiffening and scarring of lung tissue. Nick’s mother passed away from this disease in 2015.
He is realistic about the challenge that lies ahead. "I believe the reality of what I’m trying to do will hit home on day four or five, then the head games behind. I am mentally strong, but it will be so important that I listen to my body. I’ve slowed down a bit, and my running gait has changed, but it is amazing how the human body adapts and compensates."
All the funds raised by Nick for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ will go to towards its work supporting the 700,000 New Zealanders with respiratory disease. Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding says: "The Foundation has provided education, research and advocacy to Kiwis for more than 50 years and yet we still receive no government funding. Covid has had an enormous impact on our donations, and quite frankly it is only through the generosity of the public and inspiring people like Nick that we are still here."
Nick will be updating followers on his progress through on the website: www.nickrunsamerica.org.nz