A physician’s assistant living in New York plans to run the Boston Marathon to benefit the Hopkinton Education Foundation.
Ashley Windheuser grew up in Hopkinton and has fond memories of the schools, community and watching the Boston Marathon, which she called the town’s “most exciting day of the year.”
An athlete during her school years, she participated in varsity volleyball, diving and gymnastics and “avoided running sports,” she said.
That all changed when Windheuser was attending graduate school at Albany Medical College and looking for a stress outlet. Running became that stress-buster, and Windheuser began 3-mile jaunts in preparation for half-marathons.
“I haven’t looked back since,” she said.
“People think I’m crazy for running half-marathons. But if you can run one mile, you may as well run the rest,” Windheuser noted.
“It was always in the back of my mind one day to go back to Boston and run the Marathon,” she said. “The year after I graduated, I thought, ‘There’s no time like the present.’ I can’t keep putting it off.”
Windheuser said the prospect of running for 26 miles is “kind of scary … a little daunting,” but it is a challenge she is willing to face.
“The best part [of running] are the race days. They are high energy and you get to push yourself to new limits and see what you are capable of,” she said. An additional bonus is the support of family and friends.
For the 127th Boston Marathon on April 17, Windheuser will have the incentive of giving back to the community where she grew up.
“I appreciate the efforts of the Hopkinton Education Foundation and how they encourage students and support activities through the school system,” she said. “I would not be where I am without the Hopkinton schools.”
Today, Windheuser works as a physician’s assistant at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
In January, she began a strict training schedule – including a 16-mile run – and was hoping to continue preparations all the way through to April.
The most difficult part of running distances, she said, is the mental aspect. A person could be running four hours or more. “That’s a lot of time for self-doubt to happen. You think, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ And you push through.”
Running also has a positive mental aspect, Windheuser added. “During the time alone, it’s a great way to reflect back on your days.”
Windheuser’s parents recently moved from Hopkinton to Western Massachusetts, but she remains in touch with friends in town and expects them to turn out on race day.
“I grew up cheering the runners each year,” Windheuser recalled. “A sense of town spirit comes out at the Boston Marathon. I think it’s going to be exciting.”
She hoped to get the word out about her efforts for the Hopkinton Education Foundation through social media. Her GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/f/ashleys-boston-marathon-fundraiser.
“I had a great childhood in Hopkinton and feel a connection with the town. I hope someday my children will have a place like that to grow up,” she said.