Ann Ashworth’s Painful Journey Back To Loving Running Again…

Ann Ashworth’s Painful Journey Back To Loving Running Again…

Photographs Courtesy of David Tarpy

 

In running we measure success in faster times, personal bests and even just by going longer distances. 

 

What we don't tend to celebrate enough though, is the journey it takes to get there, most often of which is never a linear process and in some instances - like in today’s Fast Friday - has obstacles and challenges most would falter at.

 

The Coach Parry Fast Fridays are there for exactly this reason; to celebrate the victories! We tend to profile recreational runners more so than the elites, because well, we all know the elites are fast… 

 

But over the next two weeks, we’ve decided to profile two of our Coach Parry elite athletes for 2 reasons - 

  1. For the first time in months, there was an ACTUAL elite race in South Africa, and 2 of our elites (Ann Ashworth and Philani Buthelezi) managed to podium, 2nd and 3rd in the women’s and men’s races respectively. 
  2. Ann Ashworth’s comeback story is exactly one of “the journey” that everyone should hear, it is inspirational!

 

What most people know about Ann Ashworth

 

Most South Africans know Ann Ashworth well. She is an elite South African female runner, winner of the 2018 Comrades Marathon and a 2:35 marathoner...

 

...Ann also started and manages South Africa’s first ladies-only elite running team focused on the development, sponsorship and mentorship of South African female athletes competing in the ultra-distance space. 

 

But after running the 2019 Comrades Marathon with a stress fracture to defend her title, things began to unravel...

 

...Ann had been struggling with a string of injuries in the build-up, she had struggled to find further improvements in her training, she had constant mood fluctuations and her mental well being was down. 

 

Figuring out what was going on with Ann's running

 

What Ann knows now, is she was suffering from RED-S (Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport). 

 

She had been following a low carb, somewhat fat-free diet and had been on a high mileage and high-intensity training program.

 

From there, her body entered into a chronic state of caloric deficit (essentially meaning she was not eating enough carbs to satisfy her energy requirements). 

 

Over time, this led to her entire endocrine system shutting down. Her metabolism slowed.  She had constant chronic gut-distress & as mentioned was particularly injury-prone. 

 

Following on from her stress fracture at Comrades 2019, she took 6 weeks off running, only to fracture her ankle within a few days of training again. 

 

Ann managed to start running again in September 2018 but was never able to find form...

 

...After struggling on her own for 8 weeks she reached out to Lindsey for help. 

Ann Ashworth

 

From there the only way was up...

 

Coach Parry sent Ann for a baseline VO2max test at SEMLI University of Pretoria and they started from there. 

 

Ann said that it felt like she had hit rock bottom but at least they knew where to start from. 

 

It has now been a careful year of building and recovering from RED-S, but she felt like she was on the up and starting to feel more like herself. 

 

The last 18 months have been extremely challenging for Ann, she says working with Coach Parry has not only got her back to running consistently again (she’s only been off for 2 weeks with an injury in the last year), but her motivation and confidence has improved dramatically as well. 

 

“Lindsey also hasn’t heaped enormous pressure on me - he gives me tools with which I can navigate my own path, confident in the knowledge transferred through training.  This has been critical to my rehabilitation as an athlete."

 

  Ann went on to say:

 

"Lindsey’s structured approach to training, which includes appropriate rest and recovery (whether easy runs or cross-training), is based on science and informed by experience.

 

We don't need to kill ourselves in training every day to improve"

 

Fast forward to 18 October 2020 - Cape Town Virtual Marathon hosted an elite race in 3 different cities in South Africa due to specific COVID regulations...

 

Charmaine Botha

....Ann won the Potchefstroom leg of the race in extremely hot conditions (33C/91F) and finished 2nd overall in an adjusted time of 02:41:51.

 

As I mentioned at the beginning, this is less about the win though and more about the journey...

 

...It’s about being able to run pain and injury-free and happy, to love running again. To be running well (and fast for those who get to run this fast 😉) and to continue to run healthily into the future.

 

In Ann’s words: 

 

Toxic thoughts can have a huge impact on performance and there were a number of times during the virtual CT marathon (where there was very little distraction for athletes because there was no crowd support along the route) when I started to think about what the TV commentators could be saying.

Whether people would notice that I’m heavier than I used to be when I had RED-S? If I would be criticised for “only” running a 2h46/2h42 marathon instead of a sub 2h35 (which would have been a PB)?

 

But then I reminded myself that running the race was such a privilege in these difficult times and I was able to appreciate that:

  1. I was running fast;
  2. I was strong and healthy and fit; and
  3. I was so darn happy to be out on the road doing what I love that it really didn’t matter what anyone else said or thought - I was able to run purely for enjoyment.  

 

That was (hopefully) a watershed moment for me. 

I don’t need to run to prove anything to anyone anymore - I just have to run fast, strong, uninjured and happy.  And none of that would be possible without Coach Parry.”

 

Our entire team at Coach Parry are extremely proud of Ann and the challenges she has overcome.

 

We're over the moon that she is running injury and pain-free, but more than anything, we're excited to see her love for running ignited again.

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