Ashlee (Lawson) Green, ’08, wasn’t always an athlete.
“There was a recreational flag football team that I participated in once,” Green recalls. “And on occasion, I would pull up to the CCRB and act like I was doing something. But that was it.”
Graduating at the beginning of a recession wasn’t part of any 2008 graduate’s plans, but Green did her best to make the most of it. Upon leaving Ann Arbor, she moved to Chicago and, while working for an athletic brand, started to explore distance running as an opportunity to get active.
“I couldn’t afford group fitness classes because they were expensive, but at the time I had a few friends that ran,” she remembers. “So I bought some running shoes, signed up for a race and started to train. That was really the beginning of my running journey.”
In 2011, she ran the beloved Shamrock Shuffle — an 8K race that serves as part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Chicago. And, as the saying goes, she’s been running ever since.
Green moved to Washington, D.C., and continued her running journey with District Running Collective (DRC), an organization founded in 2013 that uses running to promote wellness, culture, and community. She would go on to become a leader and captain of DRC, connecting with and inspiring hundreds of individuals at all running levels to show up for themselves and run their best race.
Now, the Ann Arbor native is a marathoner, certified running coach, and co-founder of RUNGRL, a nationally recognized wellness brand created by and for Black women to transform generational health outcomes for Black families through running, community, and strategic advisory.
“The genesis of RUNGRL was essentially the six of us who came together because of District Running Collective,” she says. “It came out of the desire to close the gap in representation for Black women that we saw in the sport.”
Green would meet fellow Black women runners throughout her race travels and join in community with them, but once the excitement of race weekend was over, the connection dropped off.
“At the time, we sort of disappeared from the conversation,” she recalls. “We weren’t in blog posts or seen in a running brand’s marketing. No one was asking us about how the sport impacted our daily routines, our hair, and the clothes that we wear.”
Green and her five co-founders were determined to figure out how to bridge the divide between running industry and how it interacts with, connects with, and showcases Black women.
“Being able to connect with Black women and show them what’s possible can be transformational,” says Na’Tasha Jones, the co-founder and chief content officer of RUNGRL. “It’s also important for us to celebrate and represent the many amazing things that Black women are already doing.”
Jones remembers first getting to know Green from her encouragement during a weekly run with DRC.
“She would point out ways to improve my stride and motivated me to keep going — and she did it in a way that let me know that there are no ‘bad’ runners, just bad technique,” Jones says. “As a leader, I would describe her as driven and motivated. Her strength is in being a connector, in seeing what people are great at, and getting them together to spark magic. She also has a way of making you want to do more.”
Looking forward, RUNGRL aims to pivot toward opportunities where they can have a bigger impact on the running industry as a whole.
“We want RUNGRL to be a vehicle with which we can tell stories of Black women along their wellness journeys, close that gap and bring us closer to the industry and the representation that we deserve,” Green says.
Green believes it’s important that the organization has a holistic perspective because wellness doesn’t look the same for everybody.
Green has learned to give herself grace and find opportunities that work best for her to move throughout her day. In April, she completed the 2023 Cherry Blossom 10-miler — the first race she ran since giving birth to her son Liam a year ago.
“Moving looks different now,” Green says. “My body has done an incredible thing twice, and I embrace that. While I don’t have as much autonomy as I used to have, I know that moving my body is beneficial for me and it’s going to help me show up better in other aspects of my life.”
For Green, wellness is being able to show up in spaces and connect with others in the ways that make her feel most happy and most fulfilled.
“Running brings a particular type of joy,” she says. “There’s magic in the mile, and I want to keep encouraging others to find that magic however they can.”
Ashlee Greene's Tips For Holistic Wellness
Set healthy boundaries.
“No” is a complete sentence.
Get enough rest.
I always prioritize sleep. Going to bed by 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. is a must.
Make time for things that bring you joy.
Spending time with my family and friends, and doing hobbies that excite me always makes me feel good.
Move your body.
Whether it is going for a walk or hopping on your Peloton, add movement however it fits into your life.
Chasity Cooper is a Chicago-based freelance writer and wine culture expert.