The Casual Runner

My First Mile: Candace Ulery

My First Mile
Guest Contributor: Candace Ulery

Candace is a nurse by night, Casual Runner by day, and the rest of the time is the world’s biggest Ohio State Buckeye fan (apologies to Nick, but even he knows that it is true!). Born in Chicago, Candace moved to Indiana before her family settled in central Ohio, which she still calls home to this day.  Candace is a big fan of Disney and runDisney, and always looks forward to running those magical miles.


Getting in touch with our villainous sides at the runDisney Tower of Terror Ten Miler.

I am not a runner. No really, I am not. I never considered myself to be one. So, needless to say, had you told me a few years ago that I would become any kind of runner, let alone a Casual Runner, I most likely would have laughed in your face. But, that is the funny thing about life, and running, you never do know where the road is going to take you.

Growing up I was into dance, as in, big time into dance. I loved it, it was my thing. I would spend most of my evenings in the studios, confined and comforted by the mirrored walls (i.e. there was no running involved). Starting in middle school I joined the track team. Trust me, it was more about the social aspect (hanging out with my friends and riding the busses to away meets) than it was about the running.  I may have even chosen to run the shortest event possible just to cut down on the running that I had to do.

In high school, I played soccer, and, even then, running was a punishment, not a pleasure.


What is it about friends that getting splashed with color dye makes races that much more fun?

Fast forward 8 years. I began working as a nurse and was told that I was a grownup, though I still refuse to believe that.  I have been an avid Disney fan all of my life, and I heard of these race things they have at Walt Disney World where I would get to have fun, spend time in the parks, and run in a tutu (once a dancer, always a dancer!). So, before I knew it, my friend Kelley, my Aunt Angie, and I signed up for the 2013 runDisney Princess Half Marathon.  The only thing was, at this point, it had not occurred to either one of us that, to do this, we would have to become runners.

Kelley and I set about our training separately but we encouraged and supported one another, even pushing each other to log those first miles, which were undoubtedly the most difficult I’ve ever run. Throughout training I also called upon my Aunt Angie who was literally there from my first step in my Casual Running adventure. It was Thanksgiving morning 2012, a very very very cold and wet morning in Carmel, Indiana, where the family gathered to celebrate the holiday.

On that miserable morning, Aunt Angie forced me out (I may have thought she was nuts) into the cold and held me accountable to my commitment to actually do this. We started off running, and there was a lot of walking on that first run. My lungs burned. The cold was awful. The moisture was worst. I learned that I would be a treadmill trainer in winter. But, somehow, Aunt Angie managed to make the experience, dare I say…enjoyable? We had a great time together, her pushing me to complete my first mile and eventually my first training run. And, without realizing it at the time, I was on my way to becoming a Casual Runner.


The group that helped get me started on this whole crazy adventure.

With only 3 months to go from couch potato to Princess Half Marathoner, I knew I had to push myself hard to train. I did it. I even signed up for a 5k just to learn what this whole race day experience was all about. Correction, I signed up for a 5k…in Ohio…in February…in the cold…in the snow. Yeah, I was definitely looking forward to running in Florida.

The training paid off. I stuck to my plan and before I knew it we were on a plane to Florida for the runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Remember how I said that I never wanted to run growing up? And that I hated that first training run (but somehow secretly enjoyed it)? Well, I had caught the running bug…big time. In fact, before I ever toed the line at the Princess Half Marathon, I may have signed up for the rubnDisney Tower of Terror 10 Miler at the race expo…yeah, I had become a Casual Runner without even knowing it

In the nearly 3 years since my Aunt Angie helped me run my First Mile, I have completed 16 half marathons and a full marathon, and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon.  Casual Running really has changed my life, for the better.

I enjoy running now. I love going out and logging some miles. It helps cut the stress, gives me more energy, and is just fun.  I love travelling to new race locations, especially with friends and family (whether I can convince them to run with me or just be there to cheer me on). Yes, I have had to tough out some injuries, and even learned that Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-method, which I can adapt to my own needs, really works for me.

Running has also given me excuses to head to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, and introduced me to a whole new expanded group of friends who I met through Casual Runner and other Disney running groups.

The most surprising part of my Casual Running adventure?

No, it is not that I somehow went from a girl who hated running to one who loves it.

It is not that I went from running the shortest distance possible to running half and full marathons.


I do it for the bling, and maybe the costumes!

No, the biggest surprise is that I signed up for the 2013 Princess Half Marathon just to have fun with friends, to have a reason to travel to Walt Disney World, and to, for one morning, run like a Princess. But, while I did not know it at the time. Amidst that field of 26,000 runners, I would find my prince. It would just take me a little while to actually find that part out too.

Like I said, in Casual Running, as in life, you never know where the road is going to take you. So enjoy the ride!

Like Candace, we all have a store to share as to why we run.  You can check out our ongoing series of First Mile features, and, if you are so inclined, we’d love to add your own story to this collection!

– Jenny told us how she is successful in her Casual Running adventure, even though she admittedly was not the biggest fan of running. 

– Carly shared with us why she wants to be a runDisney Princess, and reminded us of the importance of setting personal goals and sticking to them.

Jake explained how he got himself onto the path of his own Casual Running adventure, which now includes a very creative race costuming hobby

– Jennifer is a mainstay of the Casual Runner Team, but she had to start somewhere. Here is her first mile story.

IMG_1343– Mike also had to start somewhere. As we mentioned above, it took him several times of trying and failing before he was able to succeed in his goal of becoming a Casual Runner, Here is his story.

– Starting from a different point of view, Steve, ran his first mile, and never looked back.

– In sharing her first mile story, Jen helped us understand the way we view ourselves as runners and running itself.

– Ryan’s compelling first mile involved conquering some personal challenges.

– Allison inspired us by sharing where she found her own inspiration.

– Kari’s first miles and race experience were unique and personal, and serve to remind us that we all have unique experiences and stories to share.

Tony took a different route to Casual Running and made it his own

The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below.  To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add us to your circle on Google+.  See you out on the running trails!  



6 thoughts on “My First Mile: Candace Ulery

  1.'Marleen Thompson

    Great story, well written, it held my interest, and I should add “inspiring” ( wee bit) !!! This “prince” person……???

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