I am not a runner.
Back when I was younger, I did play baseball and soccer, both of which pretty much forced my hand (or my feet) to do some fast moving. But as soon as I was old enough and able to make it happen, I traded in those sports shoes for ones that didn’t require running — golf, swimming, biking, and just casual walking around the neighborhood when the mood to be on my feet really strikes.
I’m always amazed to see fellow D-peeps embarking on huge treks, and I find myself a little envious of anyone who has the energy, patience, and ability to run successfully while navigating all the blood sugar and D-nuances that come with it — especially those PWDs who do marathons and half-marathons. Wow!
Lately, it seems there’s been a wave of PWDs using their running to spread word about life with diabetes, and show that “You Can Do This.” Yes, it does seem like everyone is running a marathon or halfie these days and in modern times, it’s probably not as big a feat as it once was managing this type of run with diabetes on board. But for those of us who don’t run or even think “I can’t do this” for some reason, these stories are hugely important and can definitely show the world (and any doubters) that we can do it. Really, it makes me consider standing up right now and jogging in place… maybe.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the D-folk who’ve put on their running shoes and been making diabetes history lately:
Corporate Lawyer Turned Ambassador of Sweat
Robin Arzon is one of the newest faces in this group, as the 32-year-old New York woman was just diagnosed with type 1 about nine months ago and this past Sunday ran the New York City marathon.
Her story’s pretty remarkable, so much so that the New York Times ran an article about Robin and all she’s been through — getting held up at gunpoint in a NYC bar at age 20, and after her life was saved by two women who stormed the gunman, being propelled in a new direction with her life. Eventually, Robin triumphed over a sense of powerlessness, took on a law career and then found her running shoes.
Now, she describes herself as a “corporate lawyer turned Ambassador of Sweat,” not to mention running coach, cycling instructor and ultra-marathoner. Robin runs 100 miles a week (!), and first ran the NYC marathon four years ago before being diagnosed. Prior to her diabetes, she ran a total of five marathons in five days to raise money for MS in support of her mom. That’s all pretty impressive, for someone who was once made fun of on the playground for how awkwardly she ran and forged notes as a teenager to excuse herself from gym class. (same here, Robin!)
In February 2014, type 1 diabetes entered Robin’s life and presented a new challenge. She met it head-on, deciding immediately that diabetes wasn’t going to stop her in her hard-earned tracks. She turned to an insulin pump within two weeks of her diagnosis, and ran three marathons before taking on the NYC Marathon this past weekend.
“Never in my life have I ran that hard,” she shared on Twitter, post-marathon. “I earned 3:41 today. Puked at mile 19. Kept it moving. Type 1 Diabetes will not defeat me. Overall the race was great. It was tough with the high winds but I really think diabetes just makes me stronger because I’m more determined to accomplish my goals.”
The OmniPod-wearing runner says she’s been playing with her insulin:carb ratios to get everything in line to optimize her performance. She had a bad low the week before running the San Diego Marathon earlier in the year, but adjusted and did great in her next event. Robin says it really comes down to having body awareness and using the diabetes tools that help you do your best.
“I learn more with each (event),” she says.
Her next marathon is in Tokyo in February 2015, with the goal being to knock 50 seconds of her time to qualify and compete in the Boston marathon. At some point, Robin says she’s planning to run across the U.S. to help educate and raise awareness about diabetes.
“I really believe we need to trust our struggles,” she says. “It can be hard to find reason and rationality in a disease like diabetes when you think your body should be doing what it’s meant to do but it doesn’t. Trust your struggle. There’s always light through the cracks. Find inspiration online, from friends and family, from the community, and it will reinforce your power. Willpower is finite but can always be recharged. Trust that the struggle is real, but so is resilience.”
Great message, Robin! Can’t wait to see how you do in Tokyo, and we’re looking forward to hearing how the across-the-country run materializes!
Running Shoes + Diabetes Data
On the same day Robin was running in New York, another type 1 was doing the same on the opposite end of the country in California. Putting on his running shoes and lots of diabetes data gear was D-peep Brandon Arbiter, who is VP of Product and Business Development for open-source diabetes data entreprenuer group Tidepool and a newer diabetes blogger himself at Pancreas in the Game.
Brandon took part in a half-marathon in San Francisco on Sunday — while using the Nightscout/CGM in the Cloud tech for the first time in a sporting event, and that added a whole new layer of security and management maneuvering while out on the run! This really piqued my interest, as someone who has just connected to Nightscout in the past week (stay tuned for some first impressions in a separate post next week).
It was great following Brandon’s progress on Twitter and his blog, and I could feel myself cheering proudly when hearing that thanks to all the D-data access during his run, Brandon was able to beat his goal with a time of 2:13:20!
My strategy for this weekend’s half-marathon was to wait for my BG to fall below 125 mg/dL, then immediately eat an energy Gu. Armed with my CGM on my wrist, I was able to watch it drop and respond immediately, without breaking my stride. It allowed me to keep by blood glucose under tight control while maintaining focus on the road ahead.
Honestly, this is all a big motivator for me. I’ve traditionally been worried about my blood sugars during intense outdoor activities, including outdoor biking which I took a crack at last summer. As a Nightscout-newbie myself, seeing posts like this really make me rethink how much untapped possibility there is for doing this kind of intense exercise safely and effectively. Thanks for sharing your experience, Brandon, and for being an inspiration!
Best of the Running Rest
As noted, there are a LOT of runners in our D-Community. Here are several more who’ve also been making the rounds, each grappling with his/her own particular challenges:
- Fellow type 1 Sebastien Sasseville has been running across Canada since mid-September and plans to complete his 7,500km solo trek by arriving in Vancouver for World Diabetes Day on Nov. 14. This news story has the details on the run, aimed at raising awareness about diabetes. Known by many in the D-Community for his great advocacy work, Seb’s been a huge inspiration for many of us through the years. So be sure to click over to Outrun Diabetes and wish him luck on the final leg(s) of his northern-country run through the Canadian Rockies!
- T1 runner Doug Masiuk, a computer consultant from Annapolis, MD, who was diagnosed 37 years ago at age 3, has been adding to his running resume that already includes a Run Across America and the moniker “The Diabetic Forrest Gump.” This past autumn, Doug set out to run the historic 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail between Maine and Georgia and was hoping to set a world record… but sadly, that didn’t materialize. Doug started in early September but had to stop the run because of unexpected dangerous low blood sugars that he couldn’t quelch, to the point where he felt it was reckless to continue. As he shared with his followers: “Everyone knew this would be difficult. What I hope is that others with diabetes see it as a reason to be smart and courageous and to never back down from the impossible and give it everything they have.” Don’t worry, Doug is not giving up; he’s already completed several other runs including the Capital to Coast relay in Texas, and more are planned for 2015. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Doug take another try at the Appalachian Trail down the road. He has a site called 1Run where you can follow his moves.
- Another D-Runner featured in the news recently is Aaron Perry from Wisconsin, who’s been an active advocate sharing his pastexperiences in running and becoming an Ironman. As a PWD for more than two decades now, Aaron told a local newspaper that his doctor had urged him to start exercising more in order to prevent D-complications — but that physician discouraged him from doing an Ironman challenge. Good thing Aaron didn’t listen, because he’s gone on to earn the distinction of being the first-ever African-American man with insulin-dependent diabetes to finish the grueling Ironman Wisconsin competition that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and full 26.2-mile marathon run. Most recently, Aaron was advocating on Nov. 2 at the Walk Till You’re Blue event in Waunakee, WI, one of several programs put on for national Diabetes Awareness Month. Word is he’s also training for two Ironman competitions, one in early 2015 followed by the Ironman Wisconsin. Way to go, Aaron!
We know some folks get tired of these athletic success stories, but for me personally they’re very encouraging, making me look inside myself and say, “Yes I can!” and, “Wow, the latest D-technology can really help!”