Long distance running is a solitary sport. A sport without teams. A sport where success is found by forging forward. By pushing through uncharted territory.
Long distance running with Type 1 Diabetes feels like running through the dark with nothing but a headlamp. Nothing but a few feet of visibility.
I ran my first marathon in 2013. I crossed the finish line, despite running thirteen miles on a torn knee. I crossed the finish line, and I did the only thing I could do.
I kept going. Through the darkness. Through the uncharted territory.
The 2016 Boston Marathon will mark my third consecutive Boston Marathon, and my second consecutive Boston Marathon with the Joslin Diabetes Center.
Long distance running is a solitary sport. Yet when I ran for Joslin in the 2015 Boston Marathon, I experienced otherwise.
I was hurting from mile 16 to mile 20. Frankly, I was hurting the entire time. But 16 to 20 was a rough section of the course. I was hurting a lot. I repeated the word ‘step’ with each step to distract myself from the pain.
I tested my blood sugar every few miles throughout the marathon, stopping on the side of the course as my family supported me. I expected a diabetes stop at mile 20. But I couldn’t have ever expected what happened at mile 20.
I reached the top of one of Newton’s infamous hills. I heard my dad shouting my name from the right side of the course. I ran – or, perhaps, hobbled – over to test my blood sugar. A woman standing next to my dad looked me straight in the eye.
“Thank you for running for Joslin.”
I lost my breath, yet continued to test my blood sugar. An 8 year old girl held a water bottle for me as she stood along the course with her family. She handed the water bottle to me multiple times while I managed my diabetes in front of her. I was tired. I didn’t feel like talking. But whenever we made eye contact, she handed the water bottle to me. Several minutes passed, and it was eventually time for me to finish the last few miles. I gave her a hug. And I left feeling unexplainably inspired.
Long distance running is a solitary sport. Yet Joslin has provided me with the opportunity to run with a team. A team that includes the physicians, scientists and patients at Joslin. A team that includes my family and friends. And a team that includes the spectators who line the course on the third Monday in April.
I look forward to having you on my team.