Chaski Athlete Spotlight: Ally Meller

In the second installment of our series highlighting our Chaski-coached athletes, we put the spotlight on 31 year-old Ally Meller from South Lake Tahoe, CA. Ally is a freelance writer for Outdoor Gear Lab, focusing on reviewing women’s road running shoes and apparel, and a yoga and fitness teacher. Ally especially enjoys working with pre- and post-natal clients. She and her husband just recently renovated a motor home and are taking their show on the road. They’ll spend six weeks in Tahoe before continuing to explore Washington, Colorado and wherever the open road takes them.

Ally is one of our most inspiring Chaski athletes. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 cervical cancer in September 2019 – just two weeks after her wedding! Ally just got the good news that she beat her cancer and decided to invest in a running coach to reward herself for persevering through her illness and treatments. When she’s not running, doing yoga or piloting her mobile home, Ally loves surfing, paddleboarding, reading books and hanging out with her two dogs. She is working with Coach Dani Moreno.

How long have you been running, and why did you first fall in love with the sport?

I started running consistently in college. I went to Cal State Fullerton, and when I arrived there in 2007, the fitness center hadn’t yet been built. I was embarrassingly concerned about gaining the dreaded ‘Freshman 15” and thus my love for running was born. I began to enter half marathons and surprised myself with my natural abilities! I got addicted to the adrenaline and camaraderie of racing but truly fell in love with the sport on the trails. Post-college I moved back to Tahoe and spent every moment I could exploring the endless miles of Alpine trails.

Why Chaski? What part of our collective's philosophy and mission spoke to you most?

I am working with Dani Moreno, and she is incredible! I had heard of her through the central coast running community and when I found out she was coaching, I knew I needed to work with her! I love the community-oriented mission at Chaski. From my first moment I felt truly supported and grateful to be part of such a strong team. I love how the mission statement includes “unlocking your potential” and “redefining what’s possible.” Both of those elements are so poignant right now as I embark on my new, post-cancer running journey.

What does being a Chaski mean to you?

Being a Chaski means being part of a team. It means having integrity and drive behind what I want in my life. My over-arching goal is to be the best version of myself and being a Chaski is a way to hold myself account in a fun way. I’ve always believed that to grow, I need to spend time around people who are more accomplished than me. Joining Team Chaski is that idea embodied. If I want to reach my potential, I need to be around other people who are maximizing theirs.

What are your long-term goals for yourself as a runner?

My running goal is to be the best version of myself! Long term, I want to stay healthy and strong. I don’t have any tangible running goals at the moment but I do plan on hitting some trail races in the future! I’d love to do another 50k and maybe even a longer one if my body can handle it!

What has been your most meaningful experience as a runner?

In general, the community and relationships that come from running are the most valuable part of the sport to me. I love long runs and good conversations. If I had to pick one specific, meaningful moment I would definitely choose my first post-cancer run! I woke up with enough energy, no pain and went out for a slow 5-mile peak ascent! Halfway up, my lungs and legs were burning but my gratitude was overwhelming. For months I wasn’t sure I was going to live and then there I was, hauling my ass up a mountain! It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

I have a deeply ingrained appreciation for trail running in Lake Tahoe specifically. Besides alpine trails, my favorite stretch of beach to run is on the Central Coast. Morro Rock to the Cayucos pier is another route that never gets old.

I raced the Dirty 30 Ultra in Colorado last year (a few months before my cancer diagnosis) and that was a major highlight. I trained and then raced with two of my best friends. The experience of getting to know them better and have such fun accountability made the race incredible. Both of them conquered huge obstacles to finish. I ended up running much faster than them and then waiting an hour for them to catch up one mile from the finish line. Seeing their strength come through and finishing all together made the finish line so much sweeter than crossing it alone!

Favorite workout you've done since starting to work with Chaski?

I love all of the workouts where Dani incorporates 30 second sprints. I love them even uphill! I feel like I’ve been able to grow stronger by following Dani’s sprint protocol than I would have been able to do alone! I am so thankful for her guidance.