Candice Huffine has been on the cover of Vogue Italia, in the pages of W, Harper’s Bazaar, and CR Fashion Book, starred in three Lane Bryant campaigns, and was the first plus model to appear in the Pirelli calendar. The 32-year-old model has long wanted the fashion world to embrace body diversity, but her latest shoot shows that she wants to tackle another realm: fitness.
Huffine ran her first half-marathon in March and has since run two more. The most recent was three days after her cover shoot for the November/December issue of Women’s Running, which hits newsstands on Tuesday. In addition to training and modeling, she started a virtual running group in collaboration with a publication called Project Start. It’s a series of videos where five women, including Huffine, explain why they went on their first run, how hard it was, and why they stuck with it. But it’s also a running group: Women can meet other runners via the Project Start group on the run-tracking app Strava and the @psyougotthis Instagram account, a hub for motivation, tips, and runners’ stories.
She says the point is to debunk the notions that runners look a certain way, were always able to run that fast or that long, or have to hit some sort of benchmark before they are permitted to call themselves runners. “I think there’s so many women who don’t get out the door in the first place because they say, ‘That’s not for me. I’m not a runner, I don’t have a runner’s body,’” Huffine told the Cut. “We limit ourselves before we ever even start. The same goes for the industry that I’ve been in for so long. ‘This is a model, this is what she looks like. These are the clothes and this is the size that you should be because this is the size that they are.’ It creates boxes to put people in.”
The magazine has featured a range of body types in the past and a transgender woman appeared on the July cover. Editor-in-chief Jessica Sebor says representing different bodies is core to the title’s mission. “There’s this misconception that runners are just all skinny [with] long legs and that’s the only shape and size a runner can be,” Sebor told the Cut. “What’s really important to Women’s Running is underscoring the idea that every body can run. Our bodies are made to run, so there is no such thing as ‘looking like a runner.’”
This is an important concept both for people too scared to hit the pavement and for those who might do a double take when they see someone running who doesn’t look like them. Needless to say, Huffine appreciates how the magazine challenges people’s preconceived notions. “You kind of have to break down the door, like ‘Hi! This is me. You might not have thought that this is something I’m capable of doing but I can and I’m great at it and I want you to know that, if you so desire, you can do it, too,’” she says.
You might need to walk or go so slow that you feel like you’re practically walking, but that’s okay. Really. “The goal is to take a weight off everyone’s shoulders about what this is supposed to be,” Huffine says. “We’re all going to look different and we’re all going to be at different levels for life. It’s not like ‘I’m a runner once I get to this speed or once I’ve gone this distance.’ I put on my shoes, I went outside and ran, and I feel confident that I am a runner.” As Sebor put it, “It’s a mental and emotional leap, not just a physical one.”
And, in case you’re wondering, no, Huffine isn’t running to lose weight. “I haven’t started this new fit, active lifestyle in order to change who I am,” she says. “I’m doing it because I found something in it that I never expected would come from it and that’s how I felt on the inside — I really felt strong and sharp and really, really happy. Something as simple as going on a jog changed so many different aspects of my life and that’s what I wanted to keep going.”
She says brands have realized that women of all shapes want to work out and have extended their activewear sizing. (That or they just want to milk the athleisure boom for all it’s worth, but Huffine is ever the optimist.) “It’s made me so excited because I’m like ‘of course that woman wants to work out and she’s not working out to be smaller, she’s working out because she loves herself,’” she says. “You work out because you love your body, not because you hate it. You want to feel good inside and out. It all goes hand in hand.”
If given the opportunity, Huffine would probably run with everyone who wants in, but she’s just one person. “Even though we can’t be by a woman’s side to literally push her, I hope that this project is doing that for her and she has in the back of her mind: ‘If they can do it, I can do it. We got this. I’m doing this.’” Maybe gymnastics darling Laurie Hernandez can be the group’s mascot?