‘Candy’ running with a new lease on life | PostIndependent.com

‘Candy’ running with a new lease on life

Mike Vidakovich
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Katy Taylor Special to the Post Independent

The morning of Feb. 19, 2005, is one that Candelario DeLuera won’t soon forget. The problem is, he doesn’t really recall much of that late winter Saturday after leaving his home in Rifle for what he thought would be a routine shopping trip to Walmart.

Just past 8 a.m. that fateful day, DeLuera suffered a heart attack while behind the wheel of his pickup truck, and collided with a tree outside of Jon’s Liquors on Second Street in Rifle.

DeLuera, who is the custodian at Rifle High School, was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, where he underwent double bypass surgery on his failing heart. He didn’t regain consciousness until the following Thursday, Feb. 24.

“I don’t remember much about that morning after leaving my house,” said DeLuera. “I woke up at St. Mary’s and the doctors told me I almost didn’t make it.”

As it would to most, having a heart attack in his late 40s came as a major surprise to DeLuera, who had, in his younger years, participated in sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer. He also ran on occasion, but nothing too serious.

Following his surgery, doctors advised DeLuera to walk a little each day to try and strengthen his heart. To say that he followed the doctor’s orders would be an understatement.

“The first month, I started walking a mile a day. Then, little by little, I started jogging. After four or five months, I was running about two miles per day,” said DeLuera.

DeLuera, who is known to most at local races simply as “Candy,” hasn’t missed a beat on his road to recovery, with his heart, or in regards to his stature. At age 53, he’s one of the best runners in the area.

From taking his first tentative rehabilitation steps back in 2005 to his daily jaunts of anywhere from four to 18 miles, DeLuera is running with his second chance in life, and he doesn’t plan on looking back anytime soon.

“Running has made me feel so good. I feel now like nothing bad ever happened to me,” he said. “I feel like I can go forever. It’s nice to live. I see everything as being beautiful.”

At his yearly checkups, DeLuera says that the doctors marvel at what great shape he is in. They shouldn’t be surprised. After all, he’s just been following their advice – and then some.

It’s nice seeing “Candy” at all of the local road races. But get a good look at him before the start of the race, because once he gets his legs turning, he’s almost impossible to catch up with.

– Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.

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