NORTH SMITHFIELD -- Running in the Boston Marathon has been on Elisabeth C. Nangle's "bucket list" for a long time, but being only 23, she figured she had plenty of time to accomplish that goal.
That is, until she realized about five months ago that the organization she works for - Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) - had two spots left on a six-member team to run in this year's marathon and raise money for the Special Olympics.
Nangle, a healthy athletes program coordinator for SOMA, decided now was the time to check one more item off her bucket list and, at the same time, help raise money for a cause she is passionate about: helping to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Special Olympics Massachusetts provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programming for over 12,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities.
"The opportunity was there so I figured now was as good a time as any," said Nangle, the daughter of Bill and Tracey Nangle of North Smithfield.
Nangle, who grew up in North Smithfield and graduated from North Smithfield High School, has committed to a $5,000 fundraising goal with all proceeds to benefit Special Olympic athletes. So far, she has raised $2,680.
Nangle's been training for 16 weeks to run the 26.2 miles in the world's oldest marathon on Monday, April 18 and she's feels she's ready.
"I'm excited and nervous at the same time because it is going to be such an overwhelming experience to be surrounded by 25,000 runners in the biggest marathon in the world, but I think that once I start running I'll be good," she says.
This is Nangle's first marathon, but she's no stranger to sports and athletics.
She played ice hockey, volleyball and ran cross-country in high school and played women's rugby at the University of Rhode Island, where she graduated in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and exercise science.
Nangle, who currently lives in North Attleboro, also teaches a cardio class at Allaire Fitness in Woonsocket.
After graduating from URI, Nangle was a sports intern at the Special Olympics Massachusetts office in Marlborough, Mass., and in August of last year, was hired as the organization's healthy athletes program coordinator.
The Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative is designed to help Special Olympics athletes improve their health and fitness. Developed in 1996, Healthy Athletes' mission is to improve each athlete's ability to train and compete in Special Olympics as well as life.
The key objectives of Special Olympics Healthy Athletes are:
*Improve access and health care for athletes at event-based and other clinics.
*Make referrals and recommendations for follow-up to local health practitioners.
*Train health care professionals, students, and others about needs and care of athletes.
*Collect, analyze, and disseminate data on the health status and needs of athletes.
*Advocate for improved health policies and programs for athletes.
Nangle also plays an active role in the North Smithfield community and works on the fundraising committee for the Northmen Athletic Club, which was founded in 2009 by a group of volunteers to raise funds for sports at both the middle and high schools.
Nangle says her training for the marathon, which began four months ago, is going well. She runs "short runs" of two to eight miles at the gym Monday through Friday then hits the streets for her "long run" on the weekends, which she has added miles to incrementally over the 16 weeks. This weekend, she will run a total of 20 miles, and then start to scale back as the marathon gets closer.
She had one setback during her training when she injured her ankle, but it has since healed and she's feeling stronger than ever.
Nangle is confident she will cross the finish line where she will be greeted by her parents, and her boyfriend, Eric Euglow.
Best of all, she says, will be the satisfaction of running for an organizations that means a lot to her.
"I'm not doing this just for me, but for Special Olympic athletes," she said. "The money I raise and donate will ensure that there is continued quality health care for people with intellectual disabilities."
Anyone who would like to make a donation can call Nangle at (401) 862-8973 or send a check payabale to Special Olympics Massachusetts to: 512 Forest St., Marlborough, MA, 01752 with the name Elisabeth Nangle in the memo.