Why I Run (and Ride and Swim)
In case you haven't noticed, even though as of 2022 I still hold the record for the first-ever run from Disneyland to Walt Disney World (2020-2021) and the Fastest Known Time run across Texas (2019), it's rare when I set or break a record. I'm not Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer, or Pete Kostelnik. I'm "Joe Everyman." I started late. I didn't do a full Ironman until age 57.
Which means that nothing I've done should be out of reach for OTHER T1D Joes and Janes out there. Sure, I constantly test my limits, but I try to do it carefully and methodically. With Type 1 Diabetes you have to be that way. If I learn something, I share it.
There's a saying among Type 1s that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same blood sugar result. Sometimes stuff just doesn't go your way. I've bailed on unsafe races and had sucky races due to super-high BGs at the starting line. And sometimes I get lucky. Once I accidentally came in third place in a quadruple marathon because I didn't know my running buddy was going for first place. Those moments are treasured gifts and remind me I'm capable of more.
As someone whose blood sugar might drop suddenly during exercise and cause seizures, pushing my limits is more than a little scary. You don't know how things are going to go, and I want to know how to do them safely. Sometimes that means not waiting for answers or examples, but going out and getting the data yourself.
My mission is to show fellow Type 1 diabetics that while our mutual fears of low blood sugars are justifiable, with help, we can find safe ways to be physically active and even epic. That starts with finding others who've already done what we're trying to do, and when no one's done those things, DOING them, sharing what you've learned, and lifting each other up.
Age 60, marketing director, Dallas, TX
Insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic for 49 years, diagnosed in 1972
Founder, Diabetes & Exercise Alliance, Diabetic Ultra Endurance Athletes
2020-2021 Run Across the USA: 2845 Miles
Including the first ever run by anyone from Disneyland to Walt Disney World.
2019 Run Across Texas: 850 Miles
Fastest-known-time (FKT) record for cross-Texas run by anyone.
2018 Run Across Iowa: 339 Miles
Sioux City to Dubuque. First ever solo finisher of RelayIowa course. First ever T1D finisher.
2017 Capital to Coast Race: 223 Miles
Austin, TX to the Gulf of Mexico. First ever T1D solo finisher.
2017 Ironman Texas: 140.6 Miles
2.4 mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2 mile run.
2016 Texas Quad Marathon: 104.8 Miles
4 marathons in 4 days. 3rd Place. First ever T1D finisher.
2017 Honey Badger Ultra Road Race: 100 Miles
100 miles in 100+ degrees! First ever T1D finisher.
Tour de Cure Double Century Bike Rally: 200 Miles
Texas Hill Country: Austin to Fredericksburg and back.
PLUS 30+ triathlons, century bike rallies, ultramarathons, ultra relay races, marathons and half-marathons.
1972. "Diabetes? Insulin? No gym class. Too dangerous."
I’m the last person you’d expect to be a role model.
I’m not the fastest. Or the youngest. In 2003 I was 42, and 50 pounds overweight, already with serious diabetic complications.
By then, I knew that my gym teacher was wrong. I knew that exercise was crucial in helping Type 1 diabetics (T1D’s) stay healthy, control blood sugar, and minimize complications.
But I had two big problems. I didn’t know any active Type 1’s. And my doctors couldn’t answer my questions about juggling exercise, insulin, and food to avoid dangerous blood sugar swings—the deepest, darkest fear of every Type 1 diabetic.
Still, I was determined to figure it out.
And believe me, when you have to give yourself daily shots just to survive, you’ve got plenty of determination.
I started out with just 5 minutes on an elliptical trainer. I met a few active T1D’s. Gradually, I worked up to a 5K Turkey Trot—and finished!
Much to my surprise, I did not die or end up in the ER. I started to believe that anything was possible, if I sweated the T1 details.
I ran farther and farther. Bought a wetsuit, rode a bike for the first time since I was a kid, completed Ironman Texas and became the first T1D runner to finish the solo 223-mile Capital to Coast race.
I came to realize that exercising with T1D is like another sport, on top of running, swimming or cycling.
Yes, balancing exercise, food and insulin is hard—but it gets easier with practice. Confidence and know-how replace fear.
Now, other T1D’s ask me:
“Before Type 1, I ran marathons—how will I ever do that again?”
“How can I exercise if my sugar always goes low?”
I share experiences and connect them to the active T1D community, because together is how we figure out what works.
And I know every step I run is worth it when they reply,
“If you can do it, I can too.”