When Elizabeth Candela was 17, she had a friend who was trying to get fit as he entered the Marines. He asked her to run a mile with him. She couldn’t do it. That made her mad and from that day forward, she committed to being a runner. She’s a determined runner who continues to overcome obstacles; some so huge most of us would have thrown in the towel a very long time ago.
After that first attempted mile, Candela ran for health and to stay in shape; nothing too serious. In 2001, she explains that running’s role in her life evolved, dramatically. Candela’s husband was one of the victims in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He and nearly 3,000 others were unable to escape the World Trade Center that awful day. Candela needed running to help her deal with the pain. Additionally, she needed an outlet to manage the stress of raising two children as an only parent.
In 2008, Candela was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Now, more than ever, she had to focus on her health. She explains that she was determined to stay healthy for her family, something that motivated her to go back to school and study Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Currently this amazing runner has her American College of Sports Medicine Health Fitness Specialist Certification and is in the process of getting her American Dietetics Association Registered Dietitian’s License.
This is enough, right? You’re just as amazed as I am, right?
Candela has overcome more than most of us could handle and done so with such grace, but clearly that wasn’t enough for her. In 2010, running evolved once more for her as she was running her first half marathon, the NYC MORE Fitness Half Marathon. During this race she witnessed a senior runner and was inspired. Candela wanted to be in the same position one day, running well into her seventies. Since that day, Candela set a goal to run a half marathon in every state (plus D.C.), a half marathon on all seven continents, and run at least one full marathon. Since that first half, she’s taken on a coach and has started making a serious dent in her goal. She chronicles all her adventures on her blog Half-Crazed Runner.
Many runners have personal motivation that drives them in the sport, and while Candela is clearly motivated, she explains that running is really so much more for her.
“Running, to me, is therapy. It’s a time that I reflect and make sense of life, or try to make sense of life, and pray. For me, many runs are my time with God. And running is cathartic.”
She encourages those who don’t run to find something active to do.
“Running is not for everybody, just like eating kale is not for everybody. Even if everybody around you is doing it,” she said.
This seems like very sage advice from someone who has earned the right to give it. Her story makes most of us re-evaluate what we call difficult and give some perspective on what pushing through pain really looks like.
Candela didn’t throw in the towel when that first mile got tough, she didn’t quit when she had every personal and physical reason to do so. I will be thinking of her often after hearing her story, especially when things get difficult. Today might be your day to push just a little bit harder, with her on your mind.