Maria Crawford is an avid runner and outspoken Destination Races brand ambassador. Though she now competes in many races each year, she wasn’t always an athlete.
With diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer in her family history, Maria has early memories of begging her mother to quit smoking. Sadly, when she was just a teenager, her mom passed away after suffering a heart attack. Though she never took up smoking herself, Maria says she was far from leading a healthy lifestyle.
“Food became my go-to for stress or boredom, and I rarely exercised. It was deja vu when my daughters pleaded with me to take better care of my health. With their prompting, I made a conscious decision to take better care of myself.”
In 2012, Maria started walking regularly. Although the exercise felt good, she really wanted to connect with others for encouragement, camaraderie, and help pushing her out of her comfort zone. Soon after, she found a local running group and joined their couch-to-5k program.
“I struggled with running at first and even thought about giving up the sport,” she says. “But the program’s coach and my fellow runners ALWAYS encouraged me. It was great being around other people with similar challenges to overcome. I stuck with it.”
Maria finished her first 5k race, and went on to run numerous 5ks and even half marathons. She had no interest in running a full marathon, though, until she volunteered with with her daughter at a support station for the LA Marathon in 2013. “I witnessed kindness, tenacity, outreach to other running clubs, and tears and cheers from volunteers and runners. I decided I wanted to challenge myself as well.”
Her confidence grew under her marathon coach’s teaching, and she successfully finished her first full marathon. Thanks to the support of of running groups and friends, she went on to complete another three full marathons in addition to many half marathons and shorter-distance races!
“My children are my inspiration to live healthier. They were concerned that I had low energy and couldn’t do basic tasks such as tying my shoes or walking up a flight of stairs without being in discomfort,” she remembers. “Now, my kids see me in action when I head out the door early in the morning to run or volunteer at races, or on evening runs to prepare for my next half marathon.”
A vegetarian since 2014, Maria says her family has also picked up healthier eating and fitness habits. “It’s important to celebrate others’ health and endurance milestones as well as my own.”
This sentiment is evidenced in one of her favorite quotes by Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Maria will join Destination Races in Virginia where she will run the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon on June 4th. If you’ll be in the area, stop by to cheer her on!