Ahead of the annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Guinness World Records is taking a look at some of the runners attempting to break a record.
But Stacey Kozel – who will be attempting the Fastest half marathon using electronic leg braces (female) – has a particularly inspirational story.
At the age of 18, Stacey was diagnosed with Lupus with the illness starting to attack her spinal cord leading to a number of flare-ups which gradually reduced the mobility in her legs.
Despite medical efforts to combat it and rehabilitation to try and regain mobility in her legs, these flare-ups continued.
Then, four years ago, Stacey experienced the most detrimental flare up of her life.
"My last major flare-up in March 2014 permanently paralyzed my leg muscles and also affected my arms and upper body," she recalled.
"I couldn't breathe well or even lift up my head. I lost all my mobility except for some in my left arm. I could not really control my left arm but it somewhat would flop around.
"Fortunately, I was able to regain some strength back in my arms and upper body with intense rehabilitation but people don’t usually notice that my arms and upper body did not recover completely. Lupus and the paralysis definitely make life more challenging but I try to push myself pretty hard."
Despite such a devastating loss, Stacey has remained competitive and continues to set goals for herself.
Losing function in her legs was particularly hard given her passion for distance running.
Having participated in the sport since the age of seven, she grew up continuing to improve her stamina and would often use running as a means of therapy for her struggles.
It’s no surprise that for this difficult situation, she looked to do the same.
"If I am being honest there is a group of people that do not know me that laughed at me and thought my goals and accomplishments were 'impossible'.
"I don’t want to give them any more attention but I should probably thank them because I probably would have never gone for a world record without the doubters.
"The best way I know how to answer the doubters is to keep working hard and prove them wrong with my actions rather than words. I am so thankful for the tough documentation process with Guinness World Records because now it will take more than words to take it away."
Now, her biggest challenge is meeting the minimum time requirement of four hours at the Toronto marathon.
Stacey's doctors have warned her that this record attempt will be an uphill battle as she is relying on her upper body muscles to compensate for the larger muscles in her leg, which now serve as dead weight.
While she admits in past that quitting seemed appealing given the immense strength it takes her to do daily tasks, Stacey says she is determined to live her life without any regrets because she knows "life is worth fighting for".
"It can be tough getting out of bed in the morning because of the pain and exhaustion to name a couple things, but for me (and everyone with lupus is different) the pain of knowing I gave up would hurt even worse."
Stacey has proven her grit in past, and actually holds two current records for the Most half marathons in one month using crutches and Most half marathons in one month (female).
This Sunday (21 October), she hopes to become a three-time record holder, and one day run a marathon in every US state and on every continent.
"I am just hoping my story will help someone. I hope my story might find its way to someone that needs to hear it. No matter what anyone is going through I hope they continue to fight through it."