Love for running helped lead to discovery of health issue


When meeting someone who enjoys to run, it’s only natural to assume this person has had this passion throughout their lives. Running can take a toll on the body, and years of conditioning and strength training are sometimes necessary for certain individuals, while others seem to pick it up more easily.

Enid Schantz-Hagelberg found the sport later in life, around the age of 41. In fact, it was the onset of running that led her to a crucial health discovery.

“My husband’s work made it necessary to transfer quite frequently so we transferred to Kansas,” the Pharr resident said. “I got work as a substitute teacher and there was a woman who said she’d play tennis with me if I ran with her. Next thing I know, I’m lined up running the Lincoln Marathon in 1988.”

Hagelberg said she was slow during the marathon and that it took her almost five hours to complete. Her newfound friend ran with her every step of the way. It would take Hagelberg longer than others when it came completing races, but she loved the endorphins the sport gave her and kept at it. It was during a standard checkup that her life changed forever.

“It was a physician’s assistant that noticed my blood levels were off and said I was anemic,” she said. “I told her that I was a runner and that I was healthy.”

Years later, after a transfer from Kansas to Maryland, Hagelberg was diagnosed with celiac disease, a malabsorption disease that makes bodies sensitive to gluten. Pre-existing conditions such as anemia are symptoms of the disease.

“There were so many frightening possibilities,” Hagelberg said. “There was a chance I’d need blood transfusions because I was just really sick. I chose to give up wheat and barley instead of risking leukemia and chemo treatments.”

Hagelberg said with necessary diet changes she felt better immediately. That May, she ran her fifth marathon and shocked her family with her running time. Her body had adjusted to her new lifestyle and she became a faster runner.

“Even my daughter was shocked,” she said. “At the finish line my daughter asked, ‘Mom, is that you?’”

By October, Hagelberg had qualified to run the Boston Marathon in April, which she has participated in four times. She said that run was her “holy grail” because she never thought she’d be capable of running that long and that fast due to her health issues.

Hagelberg, now 61 years old, said her fastest running years were when she was 56 and 57.

“I had a great group to run with and really great training,” she said. “Running helped me with the stress I had over personal difficult times and helped me find relief from my illnesses.”

Hagelberg said that running has led her to make countless friendships and despite being diagnosed with osteoporosis recently, she intends on running for as long as she can. An upcoming run in New Hampshire will mark her 20th state she’s run and her 40th race finish.

“I only run in the daytime and I don’t run trails because a fall could seriously injure me,” she said. “I’ve already broken a shoulder and had a fracture. I think I only have a few more falls in me until I won’t be able to do it anymore — there’s only so much tread on this tire.”