Ashmoret Mishal can't walk down the streets of Tel Aviv without getting recognized. She's a military, social and sports hero in Israel. This time last year, she was directing her own successful business, training the Israel Defense Forces, publishing a fitness column and running a 125-mile race -- her fourth ultramarathon.
But this past summer Mishal decided to move to New York City. Her business in Israel was strong but she did not feel fulfilled, and it also struggled to gain the international exposure she wanted.
"I believe in myself and I believe in my program," Mishal says. "It has shown it is proven in Israel to do big things. That's why I was very confident to come here and do that."
Mishal, who turned 25 on Nov. 10, is the founder of Ultra Leadership Method, a training program with physical and mental aspects. When Mishal was 18, she began her two-year mandatory service in the IDF. During her introductory tests, officials noticed Mishal's endurance gifts and public speaking skills. Rather than assign her to a vocational military job, as is the case for many women, the military tapped Mishal to train soldiers.
"We took the people out to the heights and we empowered them and talked to them about how to overcome fears, how to self-control yourself, how to work as a team," Mishal recalls. "The second half is physical. I told them breathing right relaxes the body and opens your mind. Take small steps."
Mishal's life has already taken an unconventional path. She lived in the Chicago suburbs for two years, attending Niles North High School as a freshman and sophomore while her mother was a post-doc at Northwestern University. Mishal finished high school in Israel, and the IDF served as a bridge to a psychology degree from The Open University of Israel in the city of Ra'anana. Open University is a distance-education institution, which allows most of its students to study remotely. Having a life outside the classroom allowed Mishal to continue training both her own body and those of others.
"I ran my first marathon when I was 19," she says. "I saw that so many of the people who run marathons are CEOs, big managers and I started to notice the correlation between success in sports and being successful in other fields of life like business."
Mishal's training expanded into ultramarathons, races of distances greater than 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles). She ran her first ultramarathon, a 60k, at age 22. She followed with a 100k and a 144k.
Then, in October 2015, Mishal reeled off the big one: a 200k (roughly 125 miles) in 38 hours. She entered the international amateur race, situated in Northern Israel, as one of 19 runners, three of them female. Only ten runners finished the journey, but only two women -- Mishal and a middle-aged American.
"There was a runner from Europe who started very fast and was done after one lap," Mishal recalls. "He just quit because he had a cramp in his leg. It's very important to put in a lot of thinking. It's not just running with your legs. It's running with your mind."
Unlike marathons, which tend to be road races, ultramarathons take on a diverse terrain. Runners do not sleep, but they do take breaks for rest and medical attention.
"Sometimes, you walk and sometimes you run lazily," Mishal says. "After each lap, I did a five to ten-minute stop, so the doctors could take a medical look."
The Israeli press picked up Mishal's story after her the fourth ultramarathon, and she was a hit by becoming a female role model in a nation that doesn't have quite as many as the United States.
"Many comments people tell me are like, 'You inspired me to run a marathon,' because I talked about how the marathon changed my life," Mishal says. "Sometimes, even for me, I feel very shy when people say, 'Oh, can I take a picture of you?' They bow because they appreciate it as an enormous thing. It's amazing for me being a young woman that people really appreciate me. How many role models of young women do you see out there that give positive influence or positive inspiration? I feel like we need more young people out there."
As Mishal's story spread, so did her business. She used money earned from her early races, a sponsorship deal with The North Face and freelance training jobs with the IDF, police and special forces to open Ultra Leadership Method (known as in Israel as Rakia, Hebrew for "Sky's the limit"). She took the skills she accumulated in the IDF, in her studies and in training for ultramarathons to produce a lucrative business.
"Even if you don't do sports, you can learn my skills that will promote your self-management and leadership," Mishal says. "We talk about how to set goals, how to overcome challenges and how to be persistent. It's a great way to learn because I actually take people and I train them physically most of the class. Then we talk about what we can't do and how it's related to lives -- as managers, as employees, teenagers, whatever. It's kind of a start-up method."
Along with training students in person, Mishal made her Israeli product available to remote users, taking a page out of her college education. She wrote a fitness column for the Israeli sports blog, Shvoong, Mishal was commissioned to train large groups, usually related to law enforcement. She notes that "70 to 75 percent" of her customers have been men, but "research shows women underestimate themselves," and Mishal would embrace an influx of female customers.
Of all groups she trained in Israel, a group of boys in a juvenile detention most stood out to Mishal. She even groomed some of them for the Jerusalem Marathon. "Those teenagers, their whole life, hear, 'Oh, you're not good, you're bad,'" she says. "Suddenly, they get to the finish line and they did not stop smiling. They were so proud of themselves."
Now she is looking to create such success stories while based in New York. There are no deserts, mountains or Mediterranean beaches like in Israel, but there are plenty of people looking to get into better shape and improve their self-confidence. That's right up Mishal's alley.
"I think New York is like the center of the world," says Mishal, who loved her time in Chicago, which helped whet her appetite for moving to the United States, but wanted to try something new. "I like it because its like Tel Aviv. I lived in Tel Aviv for four years. It's a very big, busy city, so it's kind of similar to New York. It's just that New York is a lot bigger."
Mishal's office address is on Spring Street in Manhattan, but most of her work will be done on the go, turning the city into a concrete jungle gym for her and her students. She plans on balancing both indoor and outdoor training during the winter.
Mishal is using social media -- notably Facebook, Instagram and YouTube -- to get her business of the ground in New York. She says she plans on filming a variety of new training videos in her new hometown. Mishal has a book, Ultra Success: 12 Steps To Success, that was released Nov. 14. She describes it as "a leadership training program for women in the workforce."
Ashmoret Mishal is in the fast lane. She made her business work in Israel before age 25. Now, she is trying to make it work in the United States -- and the rest of the world.
But this is not a sprint. It is a marathon -- an ultramarathon. Mishal is determined to meet her ultimate finish line: Owning a global business. It may take a while, but she is ahead of the pace.