Community Coordinator Spotlight: Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson – HKRS Manchester, NH

How many seasons have you been a Community Coordinator?

I’m a brand-new Healthy Kids Running Series Coordinator for Manchester, NH. This Spring Series is my first series. I joined in late February and launched our first race series in mid-April. 

Tell us about yourself! What inspired you to join HKRS?

We are a running family. My husband, son, and I all enjoy running and races.  My 5-year-old son has enjoyed participating in races since he was 2 years old.  He previously participated in several seasons with HKRS Nashua.  When Nashua lost their Coordinator, I looked into what might be required to bring HKRS closer to where we live… long story short we brought HKRS to Manchester and we now race 5 minutes away from home!

What is your biggest success as a Coordinator so far?

Community support and interest has been amazing!  I’m thrilled that we have over 170+ runners joining the series from Manchester and the surrounding communities. The City of Manchester Parks and Recreation has been very supportive in allowing us to use park space for the series and the school districts have assisted in promoting the series to their families.  

Sponsorship interest has also been a success. I was able to connect with local running store Runner’s Alley who chose to be a Presenting Sponsor despite not getting their logo on the shirts because the series kicked off too quickly to allow enough lead time for them to receive that benefit, but they still wanted to provide support and be the exclusive running sponsor.  We were also able to capture other sponsorship and support from locally-owned and operated businesses as well as in-kind donations of snacks for each race from grocery store chains and fun race day decorations were donated by Cardy My Yard and have been a real hit with the runners and their families for fun race day photo-ops.  Everyone, the community, businesses, schools, the city of Manchester, and families have all embraced the program and contributed to its success.

What is your favorite race day moment so far?

I enjoyed watching all the runners get so excited about their runs. It’s so fun seeing their determination to finish their races and the pride on their faces when they complete their race. In Week 1 we had several mile runners turn early and skip a loop.  The final runner was a lap behind and when she approached the turning point, she was given the choice to turn without completing the mile or continue on and complete the full mile. She wanted to be done but with encouragement decided to complete the race. Together her family and our volunteers supported her until she crossed the finish line.  It was a very inspiring thing to see her perseverance.  She came back Week 2 and finished the mile again and I look forward to watching her and all the runners progress and grow week-to-week.  I’ve always thought watching people run/race is a great way to truly see the spirit within a person, as the quote goes “If you’re losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer 

HKRS isn’t a marathon, but I think running, any distance, reveals humanity: both the joy and the struggle.  The experience creates a true full circle of experiences. 

What makes your community special?

The Manchester community is diverse, full of different backgrounds and cultures but it’s also a community that enjoys activity. Manchester has been the long-time host of many races to include the Cigna 5K which has been in the city for 24+ years and is one of the largest 5K road races in New England and the largest road race in New Hampshire.  Manchester is also home to the CMC Manchester City Marathon, a long standing marathon that brings thousands of runners to the city from all across the United States. There are also many running groups in Manchester and surrounding areas that inspire runners and their families to live healthy lifestyles.  I also think while Manchester is a larger city compared to many other places in New Hampshire it maintains a closeknit community-based connectivity. 

What is some advice you would like to share with fellow New Community Coordinators?

I think a am too new to have much advice (LOL)! I want to thank all the experienced Coordinators I’ve learned from and connected with via the HKRS Community Coordinator page as well as my fellow HKRS Coordinators in New Hampshire: Krystal in Peterborough and Stephanie in Amherst who have answered all my questions. I’d also like to thank Corrine for answering all my questions and being patient with my many needs. The advice I’d have is use all the great resources you’re given and connect with the amazing HKRS community for any help you might need.

Fun Fact

When I met my husband, he had never run a race longer than a 5K. Within a year into our relationship, we ran several half marathons together and now he’s a better runner than me by far!  We joke that I’m responsible for his “running problem” (LOL). I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before my son is faster than me too but at least I have our new dog who I hope will keep me company on future runs.

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