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Bill Vilona: Ashley Garrett Runs for a Cause

Pensacola Resident Running in Denver's Rock 'N' Roll Marathon to Aid Friend with Parkinson's Diseas

Two years ago, while living in Michigan, Ashley Garrett reached a point where she wanted to change direction in her life.

Unhappy with her weight and other matters, she got into a weight-loss challenge program and decided to go full bore into fitness running. It led into distance running. It led into completing the Walt Disney Marathon in Orlando.

Now, Garrett, 28, a Pace High graduate and Pensacola resident, is running a second marathon, but this one for a special cause.

She leaves today for Denver, where she will be among thousands of competitors in Saturday’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Denver Marathon, one of the signature marathons in the country. She will reunite with one of her friends, Randi Schultz, 36, who is battling Parkinson’s Disease.

Garrett hoped to raise $1,500 in donations in Schultz’s honor for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. She passed that goal in July. By Monday, she raised $2,150.

“This is very meaningful to me,” said Garrett, who works at Baptist Hospital. “I have known Randi for about 10 years now, and she is one of my closest friends. When I found out, I tried to rack my brain to figure out what I could do and how to be there for her, so I decided I needed to do another marathon.

“She is one of the strongest people I know. A lot of people would look at the worst part, but she has said that it could be worse and that all (she) can do is put (her) best foot forward.”

It is something Garrett did when deciding she wanted to lose 70 pounds, eat healthier and stay physically active. She embodies the spirit of people who make the decision to make their life better and help inspire others.

Garrett won the “Performance Challenge” contest at a fitness center when she was living in Michigan. The effort enabled her team to win the team contest.

“I started running and that was the biggest way I lost weight,” she said. “I just fell in love with it.”

After running in her first 5K race with friends, Garrett was hooked. She wanted to lower her times with each succeeding race. Saturday’s marathon will culminate five months of training, which has included five days of distance running per week, followed by bicycling or swimming on a sixth day.

Denver’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, which attracted more than 12,000 runners last year, provides the added challenge of handling the altitude of the Rocky Mountains. For Garrett, that won’t be an issue. Not when thinking of what her friend must deal with each day.

“According to Randi, about 3 percent of people with Parkinson’s are in their 30s,” she said. “She has a certain degree of pain with this.”

Garrett has ensured Saturday will be a special time for her friend.

Source Date: Sep 19 2012
Source Publication: Pensacola News Journal
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