Story and Photos by Zach Perras-Duenas
Ashley Stocking had just finished a sprinting drill, passing the finish line of the track.
She’s a daughter, a student, a girlfriend, a sister and a runner for Central Connecticut State University. Amidst all these, she’s a student with a medical condition known to many as scoliosis. Yet this isn’t a normal case.
Even so, Stocking doesn’t let it hinder her from her passion.
“I’ve known about my scoliosis since freshman year of high school,” Stocking, 19, explained. “I was in my first week of school when the nurse came in and did random testing on our flexibility. She just happened to notice that my back was a little off.”
By a little off, she truly meant only a little. Stocking’s spine is about 10 degrees off-center. If Stocking’s spine had been 11 degrees off, she would have been confined to a back brace for an indefinite amount of time.
“I only really remember being scared the day I found out,” Stocking said. “I was scared about it getting worse as I got older. But I still ran for the track team in high school because there wasn’t anything that would stop me.”
So Stocking ran for her entire high school career, until during her senior year she saw another hurdle appear in front of her.
“My hips really started to hurt me going into senior year,” Stocking said. “I figured it was just growing pains. But I went to a chiropractor and found out that my right leg is a centimeter shorter than my left leg.”
A centimeter might seem extremely minute to the average person, but for a runner, it means that the alignment of their hips is thrown completely off with each step, causing the muscles to shorten on the opposite side.
While there’s not much that can be done to help this, there is a temporary solution.
“I have a lift for my shoes,” Stocking said. “It looks like a little wedge that goes in my shoe to compensate for the amount of force I’m putting on my right side. It helps with my posture and my form while I’m running.”
There’s a funny twist to Stocking’s story, and it’s what makes her story unlike some others.
“My short leg is the reason my hips are unaligned, which is the reason I have scoliosis,” Stocking said. “I guess it’s laughable it all circled around.”
So now, five years after Stocking found out about her scoliosis and under two years since she found out about her “short leg,” she runs at a collegiate level at CCSU.
“I can’t imagine my life without running,” Stocking said. “I’d be a completely different person if I didn’t have it.”
For Stocking, her life as a runner is what makes her everyday life as a person more interesting. And she’ll keep doing it until her doctors tell her to stop.
Full Disclosure: Perras-Duenas and Stocking are in a relationship.
Students in Professor Stephen Dunn’s photojournalism class were required to complete photo essays to tell the story of an individual on or around the Central Connecticut State University campus. This story is one of two chosen.