From ‘Fat Ash’ to Ironman

"I thought that fit people had to look a certain way. I was sure I didn’t look like that." One Karmea athlete's story

Ashleigh Mills’s journey from ‘fat jokes’ to a half Ironman with Karmea  |originally published 2014 at |


From Eating comps in 99 to my race face in 2013

I was never one of the sporty girls in High School. I was known for ice cream eating, not sports participation. So much so, that I was given a voucher to the school canteen for my birthday one year.

I played Hockey in the B team and was the twelfth man the Cricket Team.

Envious of all those tall slim netball girls throughout high school I never thought I would become one of ‘those’ fit people later in life.

I would have laughed in disbelief if  the future me, had appeared in a dream and told me what I was going to achieve ten years on.

I thought that fit people had to look a certain way. I was sure I didn’t look like that. 

A few friends and I had lots of fat jokes between us. None of us had actual weight problems but the name and self belief in what I thought I could and could not do stuck with me for a few years on.

I never took exercise seriously apart from the odd game of hockey until I was told pretty much that I was fatty and to go to the gym by one of my first boyfriends. However degrading his comments were to get me going at the time, I do thank him for this day to bringing fitness into my life.

After a few years of being a gym and aerobics junkie, at twenty seven, I ran my first half marathon in south London. Inspired by my flatmate to get rid of the ‘heathrow injection’ I joined weight watchers and started to run to help me get rid of my extra kilos.

It was a VERY slow process to start with.

I plodded, walked and sweated the streets of London for twelve weeks.

I was by no means fast, running at seven minutes per km.

The weight dropped off, my speed increased and my confidence grew.

Inside my head I found a peace and solace in running that I had never found before.

Since then, training has been my rock. Running has helped me survive hideous break ups, anger, anxiety and work frustrations.

I had my half marathon training plan. I rugged up, stuck to it, put my ear muffs on and spent my weekends running through Regents Park, Hyde Park, Hampstead Health and along the Thames.

I fell in love with London in a way that I had never had before.

I finished my first half marathon in 2 hours and 24 minutes, smiling all the way despite the pouring rain.

A few years on and three more half marathons later, I convinced myself to take on full marathon, which I survived in 34 degree heat. Along this journey I met another inspiring lady. She convinced me to give triathlon a go. I was highly intimidated by the bikes and the fancy lycra. But I decided to give it a bash.

After crying for most of the first six months and being petrified at the start of my cycling career, I have completed three Sprint Triathlons and an Olympic Distance Triathlon and I am well on the way to becoming a half ironman in September.

I am not the fastest person in the land. But I am proud as punch

I am so chuffed to be doing things that I never thought were possible.

And I have made some amazing lifelong friendships on the journey.

I am challenged each day.

I love the way my body changes each week.

I love that my body is fitter, stronger and healthier each week that passes, as is my mind.


*I completed the Sunshine Coast half ironman! A 1.9km swim, 90km bike and a half marathon (21.1km run) on September 15th 2013 in 6 hours 43 minutes.  As my friend just exclaimed I exercised for ALMOST A WHOLE WORKING DAY. 

During the race, I lost a contact lens and cycled like a one eyed bandit for a while, peed on the bike and vomited behind a tree. But I have realised it is how we face these challenges and move forward that matters. Despite being in the last 100 people to finish. I felt like I was the winner. 

It goes down in history as one of the greatest days of my life. 



Read more of Ashleigh Mills’ writing about travel, beaches, reviews (and cats!) at

Read Ashleigh’s interview with Karmea founder Sarah Anne Evans here:

10 April 2017

By Sarah Anne




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