On June 15, I packed two suitcases, one for me and one for my two daughters, Avery and Harper. Together, we drove from Charlotte, NC to the airport in Greenville, SC for the start of our summer vacation. Our destination? Not the beach. Not Disney World. Somewhere more unique:
Why Alaska? Alaska represented another stop on a journey I began back in 2000, one that has taken me across the United States to accomplish a goal that has been difficult and extremely rewarding as a diabetic. It was at that time I decided to embark on a challenge both for purposes of my faith but also for purposes of showing what a diabetic could do—run a marathon in all 50 states. When I began this journey, the information about athletes with diabetes was limited. It was also frustrating to me personally that after being diagnosed in March 1992, I was told that my normally active life would cease, relegated to a more cautious, sedentary life. I refused to give in to that way of thinking, and when a friend posed the idea of running the New York Marathon in November 2000, I decided to take the leap.
Seventeen years later, I’m still in the air.
Each year, I’ve tried to complete marathons in 3 to 5 states. At the onset, I was able to complete races quickly because travel was close, allowing me to drive and keep costs down. I was also fortunate to turn races in certain places (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) into vacations, accomplishing a personal goal while enjoying the beauty of the country. With some races, I’ve been able to run with other runners, but so many races have forced me to run alone. Because of my health condition, I’ve learned the importance of managing insulin injections around activity, anticipating peak times for insulin. I also learned what snacks/drinks quickly returned glucose to normal levels while exercising, and others to stay away from. In 2013, I decided to take the plunge and transition to the Omnipod System insulin pump. This has relieved a lot of stress mentally and physically during my training cycles by being able to manipulate insulin delivery around endurance workouts at a much closer level.
It’s been amazing to see how much diabetes care has changed in the past seventeen years. No longer do I feel like a man on a proverbial island trying to be active while fighting the daily battle with a bad pancreas. Physicians, dieticians, personal trainers, social media—all have been indispensable in providing sources of great information that went against the common practice. It’s allowed me, at age 44, to continue to pursue this journey without fear and with much greater knowledge. An absolute blessing.
In 2016, I completed marathons in all the contiguous states, collecting finisher medals in Montana and Wyoming. As 2017 began, my goal was simple—complete the last two states, Alaska and Hawaii. So on June 15, my daughters and I traveled 4,000 miles to Anchorage, AK, and on June 17, I crossed the finish line in 4 hours 21 minutes. 49 states down, 1 to go.
Still in the air, ready to land.
Barring any setbacks, I plan to touch down in Hawaii at the Maui Marathon on October 15. I hope you will join me on this final lap as I prepare. It’s so humbling to have come so far, and to use my health not as a setback, but as an inspiration. I can’t wait to add to my collection.