Taking on Heartbreak Hill with Type 1 Diabetes

This post is written by Greg Weintraub, Captain of Team Joslin for the 2016 Boston Marathon.

greg heartbreak hill
Greg stopping for a water break with members of the Joslin Development team

The Heartbreak Hill Running Company sponsors long runs each Saturday morning and during the last weekend in January, I participated in their weekly run alongside other members of Team Joslin.

The night before our run, it was 11 pm, but I couldn’t go to bed as I still had to change the insulin in my pump and the catheter site attached to my stomach. I moved through the motions, replacing the insulin and changing the catheter site. It was at this point, standing wearily in the kitchen with the smell of insulin permeating from my hands that a light bulb went off. I still had to prepare my running supplies.

Upstairs I went, running shoes in one hand and glucometer in the other. I laid out my running supplies on the floor, making sure that I had enough food to treat low blood sugars while running. I looked these supplies once over, ensuring that I was prepared for the following morning. I fell asleep within seconds of crawling in bed.

When I woke up the following morning, I let out a sigh. After such a long week, was that all the rest I could take? But I had Team Joslin on my mind from the moment I woke up. I had something to fight for, something to represent. So I climbed out of bed and prepared for this long run.

It’s not hard to second guess these choices. In fact, it’s really easy to second guess yourself leading up to a long run. It’s really easy to think about every reason why you shouldn’t go for that run. That nagging pain or the barely present feeling of being ill is reason enough to stay home.

This was my first Saturday morning long run with the Heartbreak Hill Running Company and I didn’t know what to expect, but I started to laugh when we approached the store. Every single car parked near the store had a marathon bumper sticker or a runner using the car to warm up. I was clearly in the right place.

I spent the first few minutes before the run talking, catching up and laughing with the other members of Team Joslin. We were clearly going to take the day by storm. Any anxiety I had about this run was gone as I spoke with the team. Team Joslin is a deeply powerful experience for many reasons, and I was once again reminded that any time I spend bonding with my team, is the most motivating aspect of being a part of Team Joslin.

There is something very special about running alongside a member of Team Joslin. It was in those moments that I felt connected on my mission to achieve greatness through running. To any spectator driving by, we were just runners taking an adventure through Newton, but for me, we were united, using running as a platform to change the future of diabetes.

Eventually, I found myself at a water station located at mile six. And so I stopped, both for water and a finger prick. My glucometer returned a number. I took a few sips of water, mentally calculating how to best manage my blood sugar for the remainder of the run. I placed my glucometer back in the running belt that I use to carry diabetes supplies. I thanked the volunteers supporting the water station. And I continued on my run.

This water station was located in the perfect place, too. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I do not usually test my blood sugar during short runs. However, I do have to test my blood sugar during runs longer than seven miles. My family, doctors and I have learned that about six miles into a run is the best time to test my blood sugar. I may test my blood sugar later on, depending on how far I run. But on a long run – whether it is ten miles, fourteen miles or longer – mile six marks the first point at which I must test my blood sugar.

The Heartbreak Hill Running Company put my picture up on their wall, as they do with all other runners who complete this weekly run. I joined the ranks of people come together each Saturday at 9 am.

To train for a marathon is to complete a tremendous endeavor, one that requires nothing short of hard work over the course of many months. To train for a marathon is not so much a physical process as it is a mental process. To train for a marathon is to show oneself that significant challenges are not insurmountable, but instead, they are quite the opposite. It is as a member of Team Joslin that I can draw on the support of those around me to achieve something extraordinary.

Check back next month to follow along my journey with Team Joslin as we continue to run towards a diabetes cure in the 2016 Boston Marathon.

To learn more about or support the 2016 Team Joslin Boston Marathon team, click here. To become more involved with Team Joslin, please contact: Martha.Ho@Joslin.harvard.edu.

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