The Foundation is so fortunate to have two amazing athletes completing epic running missions to raise funds for us. Ultra-marathon runner Nick Ashill is returning to America to complete his coast-to-coast run, which was cut short by a serious accident four years ago. And fellow Wellingtonian Shane Ross is completing 21 half marathons in 21 weeks, finishing this month.
You might remember Nick’s inspiring story from our Winter 2021 issue. The ultramarathon runner, who is also a marketing professor at Victoria University of Wellington, went to the United States in 2017 to complete an epic run from Los Angeles to New York. He was nearly 4,000 km into his journey when he was hit by a truck, thrown into a ditch and left for dead.
Nick with family after his accident in 2017
After an amazing recovery, Nick is returning to the scene of the accident this May, and completing the last 922 km of his run. He will be raising money for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation and for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust in the UK.
“I made the decision to return to the US last September, after running 157 km to support the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation. This was my longest run since the accident. I had no idea if my body would be able to do it, but it did me proud and confirmed that returning to the US to finish the run was actually possible. I am currently running around 150 km a week and spending time in the gym each day to strengthen my core.
“I’ve slowed down a bit, and my running gait has changed, but it is amazing how the human body adapts and compensates. I have developed a strong connection with Mount Victoria, Thorndon Hill and the Brooklyn Wind Turbine, and love the elevation challenge. This will be invaluable when I tackle Pennsylvania, which is more mountainous than Ohio and New Jersey. I plan to remain at 150 km a week through February, but will increase this in March and April. I never believed I would be running these distances 3 years ago.
“The possibility of reaching the Atlantic Ocean five years after I started at the Pacific Ocean really excites me. I never contemplated giving up on the dream after the hit and run, despite the many setbacks and multiple surgeries. I have no idea how I’ll feel on the morning of 30 May, when I start at the site of the hit and run. However, I will be surrounded with so many incredible people. My support crew, Jim and Paul, will be at my side. Doctors and physios who put me back together in 2017 and worked with me to get me walking again will also be running with me at the start. Bringing everyone together at the same time will be an incredible experience and this fills my heart with so much joy.
“I have no doubt that running past the actual site of the hit and run will be hard. I could never imagine something like this ever happening. But I am grateful for a second chance. Yes, I still get afraid, but I will not let fear stop me. My family and close friends remind me of how far I’ve come, not how many kilometers I have left.
“I believe the reality of what I’m trying to do will hit home on day 4 or 5. In 2017, the novelty of running across the US completely disappeared at the end of the first week and the head games began. I am mentally strong, but it will be so important that I listen to my body. There have been many times over the past few years that I have so wanted to go back and change the beginning of the run and do things differently.
“But I can’t change what happened. I have cried, failed, withdrawn, but I’m not ready to give in.
“I’m looking forward to raising awareness of pulmonary fibrosis, which has always been the primary goal of the run. I am honoured to be working closely with the Pulmonary Fibrosis Trust in the UK and the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation. Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive debilitating lung disease with high morbidity. There’s no cure.
“I’m also excited about reconnecting with many people in America who have supported me over the past 5 years – doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, emergency medical responders, state troopers, and the local community in Columbus, Ohio. I can’t wait to see everyone! Finally, I’m looking forward to a good meal after I run into the Atlantic Ocean in New York!”
To follow Nick’s progress or donate to his campaign, visit nickrunsamerica.org.nz. You can also make a direct donation to Nick's campaign below.
The ‘why’ is an easy one. Asthma should not be a limiter to life. I’ve been an asthmatic all my life, and I’m 56 years old now. My early memories are several annual trips to the children’s ward at Wellington Hospital. I started with Intal inhaler as a young person, plus all the normal meds (Alupent, Ventolin, Bricanyl, Pulmicort) and the occasional nebulisers.
“I grew up in an era when kids with asthma didn’t do sports. They stayed inside or did activities that didn’t require a lot of exertion. As an example – in third form of college it was easier to say to mum that I had detention for two evenings a week than say I had rugby practice. It was only after my parents came to my first game that they saw I could do it and allowed me to play.
“As I got older, and was able to make my own decisions, I picked up a few sports. I’ve done the Coast to Coast multisport race twice, have competed in running (including ultra-marathons), road cycling, mountain biking and kayaking events. For about six years I competed as part of a team in the New Zealand multi-day Adventure Racing Series. We raced in Australia in their 10-day XPD event.
Shane shows off his 16kg loss in cheese!
“I’ve never been a great athlete. I have been a capable one, and occasionally in terms of results a surprising one. I’m mid pack for most major events. If I had followed the norms of my childhood for handling asthma (lots of medicines and minimal exertion) I would never have had the fun and experiences that I have had.
"The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation has been a key part of my personal journey – helping to change those attitudes about people with asthma, how to live with asthma, and treating asthma better. So, my being an asthmatic and running 21 x 21km over 21 weeks is my way of showing that asthmatics can do this – and raising funds to continue the good work the Foundation is doing.
In May last year I did a similar fundraiser for the Foundation. I had turned 56, so I set up a weekend where I wanted to do 56 kms kayaking, 56 kms mountain biking and 56 kms running and trekking within 56 hours. I asked people to sponsor me for every hour under 56 that I did it in. I cut it all out in 29.5 hours and raised $2,000 for the Foundation. There are plans for a 57 version this May!
“Also, from January to March last year, I managed to lose 16kg, mainly through changes to my diet and exercise. The running now is a validation of that physical change, and how I can better manage my asthma as a result. With the return of some element of fitness and no desire to return to racing, a fundraiser seemed the best way to make use of the fitness I was getting back.”
To donate to Shane’s campaign, visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser /project-blackjack
‘Beep beep beep’. The familiar yet annoying sound of my phone alarm going off in the morning for work cuts through my sleep. Bleary-eyed, I sleepily click it off as I get ready for another day at work.