New Edinburgh Neighbourhood Runner: Ashley Kokelj
The ever-busy Run Ottawa member Ashley Kokelj puts balance first in all she does.
“Running is like meditation for me,” she says. “I choose to run not to break PBs, not to win any races, but to clear my mind and to challenge myself.”
As a community organizer and entrepreneur, she’s also linked meditation and libation in a unique way. Although yoga and beer are two ways to unwind, when do they ever go together?
Her business Yoga on Tap allows both to be enjoyed simultaneously. Sessions with sips of beer in between poses are Kokelj’s way to tackle moderation, she says, and to encourage others to balance their healthy life choices with pleasurable ones.
“I always make sure to talk about why it is that we’re spending our time doing this,” she says. “Your time is like money and you need to spend it wisely.”
When she isn’t running events with her business, she’s attending running events or hitting the trails in Gatineau Park. She also bikes or run-commutes to and from yoga studios and gyms across the city, and enjoys spending time with her growing family.
Finding balance is, for everyone, a personal quest andKokelj loves to encourage others to find what works best for them. Her community events aim to bring people together who wish to prioritize their health and happiness.
“I’ve always been a very outgoing and interested kind of person,” she says. “All these events just brought those interests all together.”
They have also been a way for Kokelj to foster new interests. After starting Yoga on Tap in 2015, she began commuting everywhere by bike. This kindled her love for endurance sports and led her to help people train for strength and endurance at Iron North Studio. And EPIC Fitness & Lifestyle. Currently, she is ompleting her Marathon Coaching certification.
As a counterpoint, Kokelj recently started offering meditation classes at The Peace Room on Sparks Street which has led her to run-commute 5K from North Vanier a few times a week.
“I’ve only been a runner for two years, as long as I’ve lived in New Edinburgh,” she says. “I do most of my running in Gatineau Park when it comes to trails. However, my very favourite route is probably down Beechwood to Birch, and then getting over to the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway. If you take the Aviation Parkway, off some of the parking areas, you can actually go right down by the water on the Ottawa River Trail.”
At the Run to Beer events she organizes, a cold pint is the reward at the finish. Her regular Run to Beer group meets monthly at a different Ottawa brewery before going for a 10K run (with 3K and 5Koptions). Since its inception in 2017, Kokelj has hosted speakers to talk about running, motivation, training, and even the brewing process, while the runners cool down and enjoy their pints.
“Actually, my son was born on the day of one of our speaker series,” she laughs. “We had 80 people signed up and Ray Zahab was coming to speak. I was on my way to the event and my water broke. That was a really interesting day for us!”
After completing the Ottawa 10K in 2016, she ran the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon in 2017. Last year, a month after her son was born, she jogged to the Beechwood Cheering Station with her five-week-old for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.
“I hope to participate in the next race weekend, but if I don’t, I’ll definitely be present,” she says. “I just feel very, very blessed to be part of this running community.”
Are you ready to be part of the running community? Register for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend to be part of the experience, and if a post-run beer sounds right for you take part in the Ottawa 10K, Scotiabank Marathon or Half-Marathon and enjoy a cold Kichesippi beer at the finish line.