Asha Clarke is keeping busy this year. She is a second year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, getting married this July and running the 2014 Boston Marathon in April! Despite her crazy busy schedule of classes, volunteer work and research, Asha feels that making time for training has helped improve her focus and get her healthier and more in-shape than ever.
Never a serious athlete growing up, she enjoyed occasional runs, hiking, and swimming, but never any competitive sports. Running was often challenging due to shoulder and back pain from ill-fitting sports bras and carrying a larger bust on a petite, 5’1” frame. The discovery of her first Enell bra in 2009 changed things in terms of comfort and encouraged Asha to be more active, getting out for runs and beginning cycling in Seattle, WA, her home at the time. However, she never anticipated the work out her Enell bras were going to get in just a few years time!
During her senior year of college, Asha heard about a program called Wediko Children’s Services and decided to apply for a job in their summer treatment program for her first summer out of college. That first summer turned out to be a life-changing experience! It led to 5 more summers, a move across the country from Seattle to Boston to be with Wediko full time for a year, and an incredible group of friends and new family. She even met her fiancé at Wediko during her second summer! So what made Wediko so special to Asha? Wediko Children’s services works with children who face repeated obstacles to development due to social, emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges.
“What makes them stand out is the way they do their work. Wediko works not just with children, but with families, schools and the community. Wediko’s motto is “Restoring Hope Together” and they truly practice this, helping children and families to find hope where they thought it was lost. Kids get to experience a summer of fun, including swimming, archery, music, theater and a little bit of school. Through all the fun, they learn to feel accomplished and proud, as well as learning new skills for anger management, coping with sadness and frustration and how to get along with peers.”
Wediko has had runners in the Boston Marathon for the past 3 years, and Asha was always amazed at her co-workers and friends who committed to running and raising money for the agency. With her longest run at around 5 miles, a marathon seemed pretty far out of reach. Instead, she signed up for the Wediko Century Ride in 2011 and (yes, wearing an Enell bra!) completed a 100-mile bike ride from the Wediko New Hampshire setting to the Wediko Boston office. Finishing the ride was a great moment, but with medical school starting in the fall of 2012, she thought that the century ride would stand as her biggest physical fitness accomplishment.
Well, plans change! Asha started running with a few friends at school and discovered that it was a great way to relieve stress and relax. She considered running a ½ marathon in 2012 but was sidelined by a foot injury. However, she was still thinking about what her next goal could be and gradually she started increasing her training without telling anyone what she was thinking. After all, could you really go from a casual weekend runner to a marathoner at 27?
Fast forward to this week: Asha finished a 20 mile run last weekend, and is beginning her final preparations for the 2014 Boston Marathon. The decision to apply for a Wediko bib was an easy one for her.
“As I reflect on the events of the 2013 marathon, I see the resiliency and compassion of the people of Boston, particularly the victims, first responders and those who are running again this year to finish what they started last year. I also recognize the anger, hatred and sense of isolation that was present in the young men who initiated the terrorist attacks last year. I believe that this year, part of our focus should be on agencies and groups that work to reach isolated and angry youth and to break a cycle of violence, whether within a single family or on a national level. I am running for Wediko because I believe that they are one of these agencies.”
Asha has a minimum fundraising requirement of $8,000 but is hoping to be able to reach a goal of $10,000. All of the money raised will go directly to Wediko to allow them to continue reaching children and families for years to come. As for the training, Asha says it has been hard, but incredibly rewarding. “I had no idea the time commitment I was getting myself into when I first decided to do it. But every time I feel overwhelmed or tired, I think of the children and families I worked with at Wediko and the challenges they face in their daily lives, the obstacles they have to overcome. I’m running for them, they keep me going.”
Visit Asha’s Crowdrise page to support her cause and see her training updates, or visit her on Facebook at Asha runs Boston to read her “Reasons for Running” updates and keep track of her fundraising and mileage.