Ashley Harman ran the New York City Marathon in November of 2014. It was cold and windy, but it was the best race of her life. It was not her fastest time. There were no Personal Records (PRs) on the race course for her that day. However, Ashley was running for a cause much bigger than herself, and that made the experience rewarding in a way that she has never experienced previously. Ashely ran the NYCM for Project Purple in honor of her friend Rick Carone, who is battling stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Ashley speaks with a great admiration for Rick and says, “He is one of the most positive and humble, God-fearing men I have ever met in my life. It is about faith, family and friends for Rick. He focuses on that every day.”
Ashley Harman lives in Austin, TX where she works in marketing as a Senior Program Leader at the Whole Foods Corporation. Cancer first touched Ashley’s life when she was a teenager. At the age of 16, Ashley lost her mother after a 4.5 year battle with Anal/Rectal cancer. As Ashley says, “16 is one of the most pivotal ages of a girl’s life.”
Though she had a very strong family support system in place, she turned to running as a way to escape the pain of losing her mother. She joined the Track and Field team as a junior in high school and learned to use running as her coping mechanism. It was during this time that Ashley developed her love of running.
Ashley started running marathons in 2009. In the spring of 2013, Ashley’s life was touched by cancer once again when her good friend Rick was diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic Cancer. Ashley learned about Project Purple through Rick’s involvement with the organization. Ashley sought out more information about Project Purple and decided to run the NYCM in Rick’s honor. Ashley trained through the hot Austin summer, running with her students from Austin Fit, where she is a coach. She held fundraisers at local businesses and ultimately raised close to $4,000 for Project Purple.
In November, Ashley traveled from Austin to New York City. Rick flew out from his Midwestern hometown to New York City and surprised Ashley.
Ashley was thrilled to know that Rick would be joining her husband Michael out on the course to cheer her on during the race. Over the course of the marathon, she was able to see Rick and Michael at five separate spots along the route. When asked about her race, Ashley said, “It was cold and windy but it was literally the best marathon of my life. Thinking about what Rick was going through, and knowing he had to go to chemo on Monday, kept me going through the race.”
After the race, Ashley gave Rick her race medal at a very emotional post-marathon reunion.
Ashley and Rick’s families spent some time celebrating together at the post-marathon party.
When asked how running for a cause differs from running for a personal goal, Ashley said, “When I am running for myself, I am competing with myself. It is a very internal battle. Running for someone else or for a charity really opens your eyes. It reminded me that my pain will only last 3:30-4 hours. Rick is so much stronger than I am physically and emotionally. He is someone I look up to. I wanted to do my best for him. It wasn’t about qualifying for Boston or meeting a goal. It was about doing my best because he is here cheering me on. It wasn’t the fastest I have run, but it was the best experience and the most fun.”
Rick has a public page on Facebook called Team Carone.
He uses the hashtag #shutdowncancer in his communication on social media. His positive outlook and fighting spirit have inspired Ashley to join the fight with Project Purple. Ashley found her NYCM experience to be so gratifying that she has agreed to run the Marine Corps Marathon next year for Project Purple, and for her friend Rick. Ashley encourages others to join her and Project Purple as they run to Beat Pancreatic Cancer!