Quote: I think we don't know how far we can go physically, emotionally, and spiritually until someone challenges us to.

Ashley Schneider

Executive Director & Founder: MS Run the US

MS Run the US is a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and funds for multiple sclerosis research and aiding those living with MS. As a solo endurance athlete, Ashley Schneider ran the inaugural MS Run the US transcontinental crossing in 2010 - 3,200 miles from CA to NY. In doing so she became the 16th female to ever run across America.

Q: What motivated you to start MS Run the US?

A: My mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) four years before I was born. I lived my whole life watching my role model live graciously with a disease that slowly took away her abilities to move and be independent. I have also been a runner my whole life. I always felt very blessed to be fit and never took movement for granted in light of what I saw my mom go through.

Those two areas of my life collided when I was 25. While running, the idea came to me to run across America in an effort to raise awareness and funds for MS. At the time the idea came to me, I didn't know I was going to start a non-profit and create America's first annual ultra-running relay event, but that's what happened.

Three years after Ashley’s solo run she launched the annual MS Run the US Relay. Every year, over a dozen runners each run hundreds of miles and raise thousands of dollars as they cross the U.S. Since its inception in 2010 the organization has raised almost 1.2 million dollars.

During her solo run, Ashley ran nearly a marathon a day, six days a week, for six months. She wore out 10 pair of shoes, burned over 270,000 calories, and her only injuries were two blisters.

Q: Why running?

A: To make a lasting impact it's important that we speak from the heart. Running gave me a platform to speak from my heart while asking for donations. Every person is blessed with a gift. Some people are drawn to education, business, philosophy, or numbers. I have always been a runner. Running across the country gave me a reason to inspire others into action. Running is also something hundreds of thousands of people enjoy. It gave others the opportunity to join me during my journey, and it's also given the organization an event to build continued support.

Q: What was it like running solo, as a woman, across the United States?

A: I ran across America when I was 25. That's the perfect age to be just naive enough, just ignorant enough, and just invincible enough to do anything without actually considering the potential consequences. I didn't think about being a woman running solo across America, I just thought about doing what I felt inspired to do. It dawned on me one day that I wanted to make a difference. So, it may sound senseless, but once I got that idea in my head I dropped everything to do it. To answer your question, what was it like? It was like waking up one day and realizing you wanted to run across America for your mom, then doing it.

Q: What do you hope the future brings for MS Run the US?

A: I hope the future brings a cure for MS, and soon. In the meantime, I have plans to grow the organization and our inspiring events so that others can feel empowered to take action to make change for those living with MS. The depth of what we ask our fundraisers to do is massive. As a society, I think we don't know how far we can go physically, emotionally, and spiritually until someone challenges us to. Our events challenge people to explore their limits for a cause. The combination of testing yourself and doing it for others changes lives. I want as many people to experience that as possible.

Q: How do you balance it all (or do you)?

A: HA! That's funny. My perspective on how well I juggle it all depends on how my most recent days have gone. Last week for example, I had to cancel all my meetings and childcare to take care of my 7-month-old baby who came down with a bad eczema infection. Then this week, with baby back on the mend, I worked out every day, attacked my to-do list, stayed present with my family, and even squeezed in a few extra tasks. Who knows what next week will look like?

My suggestion to anyone juggling a lot would be to first offer yourself some grace. You're likely waking up every day doing the very best you can. Don't be so hard on yourself. Second, if your life is absolutely batshit crazy, take something off your plate. I recently made the decision to set my personal fitness and nutrition business aside for now. It's not the right time in my life to juggle too many big things, and though it was painful to say no to something I love, it was definitely the right decision. When it comes down to it, it's your life. Don't continue to do things you think you should do because of what others may or may not think of you. Never forget that you always have the ability to create the change necessary to live the life you want.