You may not believe it, but it's true: I'm a Champion Athlete with Diabetes.

I even have a medal and certificate that say so.

The medal is now hanging in my office, where I can see it every day Athletic D-Medal Front Viewand be inspired to keep making exercise a part of my life.

It's all thanks to a diabetes advocate and fellow D-blogger named Stephen Shaul in Baltimore, who came up with the idea to create a new program in November 2013 that awards medals and certificates to members of the Diabetes Community -- whether you're a "star" pro athlete, someone who's always been fit and involved in athletic endeavors, or someone like me who has to really step out of his comfort zone and push myself to go there.

If you don't know Stephen (you really should), here's a bit about him:

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Diagnosed in January 1991 at age 28, Stephen blogs over at Happy Medium and can often be found around the Diabetes Online Community in the blogosphere and on Twitter as @StephenSType1. He's written all kinds of insightful posts over time that range from daily D-experiences to his involvement in clinical trials. He's become a "must-read" on our list of D-bloggers.

Stephen was the guest on the Nov. 21 episode of DSMA Live BlogTalk radio, and that's where I first heard about his new Champion Athletes With Diabetes program. Here's how he describes the idea and how it came to be:

I've always been a huge fan of athletes, and I've competed in several sports myself over the years. For PWDs (people with diabetes), the adjustment from non-activity to regular activity, plus the adjustment in blood glucose levels, basal rates, and bolus insulin doses often requires a fair amount of bravery. I don't think PWDs get enough recognition or rewards when they get out and compete, or even when they make a concerted effort to stay active. I had been thinking about that on and off for a while, and then I saw this video from D-blogger Kerri Sparling. In short, it was inspiring. It inspired me to get medals produced and purchase certificates and create Twitter and Facebook accounts to promote the idea that all Athletes with Diabetes are Champions.

Listening to him tell his story, I immediately fell in love with the idea.

The rules are simple. Here's how to apply:

  1. The athlete receiving the award must be living with diabetes.
  2. The athletic event accomplished must have taken place in the last six months. For now, we're going with a pretty loose interpretation of the word "event." If you feel you've accomplished something important to you, that's an event. 'Nuf said.
  3. Send an e-mail to champswithdiabetes@gmail.com. Include your name, name of the athlete (yourself or someone you'd like to nominate), and your mailing address (gotta know where to send the medal). Most important, explain what athletic goal was accomplished, and when. Extra points if you explain how you felt accomplishing the goal. (Stephen reserves the right to use applicants' stories on his blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook, but will not use your name if you don't wish it used. He will never share private information.)
  4. When you receive your medal, you're asked to post a photo of it around the athlete's neck. You can tweet this to @ChampsWithD (hashtag: #champdathletes) or post it on the Champion Athletes With Diabetes Facebook Page.

Naturally, I honed in on my own "athletic achievement" earlier this year, which I'd diligently trained for and then reported on. I wrote to Stephen:

I did my first-ever Tour de Cure on June 8, 2013 (I'm just inside the six month mark!) here in Indy, at the Indy Motor Speedway and around that central part of Indianapolis.

I'd signed up for a 50k because for some reason that was the shortest distance choice aside from the "family recreational" stretch just going around the 2.5-mile speedway track. I trained at least a few times a week in the months leading up to this event, around my neighborhood and the city on streets and bike paths. On the day of the tour, I made it a little more than 15 miles -- about 25k -- which is half of the registered route. That was my limit, and at timeRed Rider Mikes it was very challenging for me, especially when it came to the non-level highways and streets around Indy that were very different from the smooth flat downtown streets and paths I'd been training on.

But I pressed on, in large part because of the people who were there cheering me on as they rode by and saw me struggling to just keep pedaling and offered a "Go Red Rider!" in support. At some of the toughest times, it was that support that kept me going.

This was the most I've ridden my bike as an adult, and I am very proud of pushing myself and going the distance that I did. It was never about making it to the very end or being first, because that just wasn't me. But I wanted to prove that I could do it, that I could push myself to my limit and not stop when it seemed impossible, and that no matter what, diabetes wasn't going to stop me.

Before the ride, and even during that time and afterward, it's people like Scott Johnson, Mari Ruddy and George Simmons who I've seen accomplish their own athletic achievements who have really served as my biggest inspirations in believing I could do this, and pushing myself to make it happen.

After sending that off to Stephen in early December, it wasn't long until a beautifully shiny medal and certificate arrived at my doorstep.

D-Athlete Certificate

I'm not the first to get one of these, as Stephen has already showcased the first 3 winners and a few more have been added recently. I'm honored to be a part of this early group that will surely grow huge in no time, as more people learn about it and embrace their "inner D-Champ" abilities!

The medal and certificate are really cool, and are now constant reminders of what I can do if I just put my mind and energy to it.

As I look down at my expanding stomach and waistline that seems to become more pronounced each year and led to the embarrassing need to buy new clothes, I find this bike riding achievement from just 7 months ago even more important right now.

With the new yMike with Medalear now here, this seems the perfect time to focus on this program and my own athletic potential. I'm hesitant to use the word "resolution," because I'd hate to jinx myself with the perennial curse of never following through... but getting back on my bike and making it a more regular part of my routine year-round is something I'm eager to do in 2014. Once the ice and snow melts outside, of course.

This medal and certificate inspire me to stay motivated and remember how good it felt to achieve something I had never pushed myself to do before. My Tour de Cure distance may not seem like much to those who've ridden much longer courses, or who are regular riders or athletes... but to me, it was a lot. And I'm really proud of what I accomplished.

Sometimes, the phrase "You Can Do This" really does feel like a cliché, and something that's just out of my reach. It's one thing to look at other PWDs and see the inspiration in the phenomenal things they do, but it's quite another to insert yourself into the mix... The glimmer that often comes with hearing about fantastic athletic achievements sometimes feels like it can drown out the message that we ALL have an inner athlete and champion inside ourselves.

So thank you, Stephen, for helping me see my own inner champ, and use this pride to shape the future with what I can and will do in 2014.

 
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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.