August 17, 2022 6:59 am

Ultra-marathon runner forgives hit-and-run driver who left him for dead in US

An extreme distance runner has completed the coast-to-coast American challenge that he began five years ago, when he was left for dead by a hit-and-run driver.

Nick Ashill, a former university professor in Sharjah, ran the 1,000 kilometres from Ohio to New York in 19 days.

The feat marked an incredible recovery for the 55-year-old, who was hit by a speeding car during his attempt at the 5,400km run in 2017.

“I have peace now and forgiven the driver who hit me at 100km an hour Oofos Canada and left me without stopping,” Mr Ashill, who is back in New Zealand after completing the run in June, told The National.

I took off my running shoes and went straight in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island. I finally had closure after five years
Nick Ashill

To get to where he is today, Mr Ashill has spent years in recovery and rehabilitation.

Police never found the driver who struck him near Columbus, Ohio, knocking him into a ditch.

“I visited the site the night before I started the run to say a few words, but there was no anxiety,” said Mr Ashill, who left Sharjah for Wellington in 2020 after 14 years in the Emirates.

“Training for the return run was different this time.

“To begin with I had to learn to walk again. Working on my core and strengthening my legs was key to running again.

“During the last year of training I was able to run 160km in 19 hours and 15 minutes so I have come a long way.”

Saharjah, U.A.E., January 10, 2018.  Nick Ahill and his wife Sarah at his home in American University Sharjah.  Victor Besa / The National
Reporter:  Nick Webster

After he was flown to hospital, doctors rebuilt his pelvis, but he had lost so much blood he was still receiving transfusions three days on.

For months afterwards he received intensive physiotherapy and follow-up care to get him back on his feet and running again.

Since reaching New York, he has joined a select club of about 300 people to have run the coast to coast route.

He ran between 50 and 58km each day, with 19 days of running and just two rest days.

While an impressive feat, Mr Ashill’s five-year effort is some way short of the record for the fastest.

In 2016, ultra-marathon runner Pete Kostelnick traversed across the country crossing 14 states on foot in just 42 days, six hours and 30 minutes.

For Mr Ashill, he is just happy to be out running again Chacos Shoes after a tortuous period of recovery following his accident.

He is already planning his next challenge — a 3,932km run across Australia from Sydney to Perth.

“I ran 972km in 19 days so my body did well,” said Mr Ashill, who is now works as a professor of marketing at Victoria University of Wellington.

“There were so many highlights.

“Being reunited with Jim McCord and Paul Wheeler, my support crew who have both run across the US, was great, and of course being able to raise more awareness of pulmonary fibrosis, the lung disease that took my mum’s life.

“It was an amazing feeling to finish. I took off my running shoes and went straight in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island.

“I finally had closure after five years.”

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