For the first time in four years, Tyler McCandless will not win the Kauai Marathon.
That’s because he won’t be running it.
Instead, the Boulder, Colo., man will turn his attention to the Kauai half marathon and naturally, he plans to win.
“I love the course,” he said.
The three-time winner of the Kauai Marathon is foregoing defense of his title to focus on the U.S. marathon championship on Oct. 5 in Twin Cities.
The 27-year-old believes he could be the first to finish.
“I’m definitely a contender to win it,” said McCandless.
Last year, after winning the Kauai Marathon in a course record, 2 hours, 21 minutes and 9 seconds, he competed in the U.S. marathon championship a month later. He led for the first 19 miles before fading in the final miles to finish 12th in a personal best, 2:16:46. Two marathons in five weeks, he said, “takes a little bit out of you.”
He hopes to run a 1:05 at the Kauai half on Aug. 31, which is a qualifying time for the Olympic marathon trials in Los Angeles in 2016.
“It’s doable, you have more downhill in the second half, so I think the time is achievable,” he said in a phone interview with The Garden Island.
But his return to Kauai is more than about running fast and finishing first. It’s about giving back. And Tyler McCandless wants to give big to Kauai’s youth.
In past visits here, McCandless has spoken at schools and run with students, as well as presenting running shoes donated by his sponsor, Newton Running shoes. He wants to build on that past success and benefit the island’s youth running program.
“I will not be going back to defend my marathon title, but will be running the half-marathon with a goal of raising $13,100 to help fund the expansion of the Kauai youth running program,” he wrote. “Please help me spread the good work and make a positive difference in a community that has made a positive impact on many lives with the aloha spirit.”
Winning the Kauai Marathon three straight years, he said, is “probably my most proud achievement” and it will be tough not to defend his titles. But raising money for the health of Kauai’s youth is the best consolation prize.
“That’s going to be even better than winning for three straight years,” he said.
Setting goals, working toward them, achieving them, is something he wants to do to motivate those around him.
“My goal is to show the kids that you can set a challenging goal months ahead, work hard and try your best to achieve it,” he said.
In his visit to Kauai this year, McCandless plans to again visit schools, talk running, field questions and run with students and yes, donate more Newton Running shoes to kids. He’s also part of a partnership with Healthy Learning Paths to empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices. Because even for a diehard runner like McCandless, who hasn’t missed a day of running since October, it’s not just about running, but about sleep, nutrition and mental health. It’s about making wise choices every day.
“It’s encompassing everything,” he said. “The idea is to really make a positive impact through the year.”
But even the ever-optimistic, free-spirited McCandless realizes he has his limits. That’s why he’s asking for help with fundraising and bolstering kids running on the Garden Isle.
“The movement has to come from within. It has to come from the community itself,” he said.
What better place than Kauai for that to happen, he said.
“Everyone just comes in and has this positive sense of enthusiasm for life and happiness,” he said.
So he wants to spread that as far as he can.
“Every time I come back to the Mainland, I feel like I’m a better person,” he said.