Epic runner outruns diabetes

Doug Masiuk ran across America and then came to chill out in the Cayman Islands, but instead of just hitting the beach, he met with fellow diabetics and shared his inspirational journey. 

Mr. Masiuk, 38, who has had Type 1 diabetes since he was 3 years old, ran 3,400 miles from San Francisco to New York City last year and was named one of Men’s Health 2012 Heroes of Health and Fitness.  

Visiting his brother, Aleksei, in Cayman last week a few days after finishing his epic to rest and recuperate, Mr. Masiuk arranged meetings with local diabetics and gave a talk at the South Sound Park, beside the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, on Thursday evening, 17 January. 

During his run across America, dubbed “1Run: Outrun Diabetes”, from May to December, he stopped off in towns and cities to talk with politicians and medical professionals, Lions and Rotary clubs, students, teachers and campers – in fact, just about anybody who wanted to meet him and reckons he spoke to about 100,000 people during his months on the road. 

His message is simple – make a choice to be fit and live longer. 

The death of a close friend from a heart attack in her mid-50s hit him hard, he said, and made him realise that if he wanted to live to 80, he needed to get moving. So, he started running and discovered in his early 30s that he could “run far and run far forever”. 

“One day, I thought, why not run across the United States? My friends and my family thought I was out of my mind. I looked into it and other people had run across, starting in 1870. Then I discovered that no Type 1 had ever run across. I thought it’s important to check that category of things that diabetics have done.  

“So, me, a friend and her dog were going to get in a van and just go. People got frustrated and upset with me, saying ‘you have diabetes and you’re going to wing it? You have a duty and obligation to go out there and yell as loud as you can …’ So, we paused and started planning it. It was about the running but more about the people and the events,” he said. 

Mr. Masiuk, from Annapolis, Maryland, who works in information technology, ran the equivalent of one marathon a day over seven months – and he’s still running. While in Grand Cayman, he was running between 10 and 17 miles a day, he said.  

Among the things he talked about with the group in the Cayman Islands – who included a man who regularly runs marathons and a 10-year-old boy who came straight from soccer practice – was the impact of exercise on diabetes.  

“They wanted to know things like if you’re running for six hours, what snacks do you eat? How often do you get low? How do you balance that?” Mr. Masiuk said.  

On his arm is a device with a tiny wire that goes under his skin which constantly measures his blood glucose level and sends the information to a small monitor he carries with him. This made it possible for him to check his levels throughout his run. 

Monitoring blood glucose levels is vital for diabetics so they manage the condition and part of managing diabetes is exercising. 

“I get it. There are gutters to clean and kids to take care of and a car to wash, but everyone’s got 30 seconds to start,” Mr. Masiuk said. “Just put in that initial time, that moment, just for yourself, and build on that. The president of the United States finds time to exercise, Bill Gates exercises; people with very demanding jobs find time to do this. It’s important.” 

He ran across the US from 20 May to 23 December, finishing up at the sea’s edge in Coney Island, New York, just in time to spend Christmas with his family. On average, he ran five days a week and then attended events to spread his message on the two days he wasn’t running. 

“The whole run was 3,400 miles. It’s about 3,000 miles from San Fran to New York, but we wiggled around about 400 miles.” 

When he finally came to the end of the run, at the water’s edge at Coney Island, he said the first image that popped into his head was a father and mother in a hospital being told their child had just been diagnosed with diabetes. “The first thought was that and then the follow-up thought was I hope they learn of what I did. There were other moments throughout where I’d be in a town and a family had just found out this horrible news and I could stand in front of them and be like ‘this is 35 years of what you fear, you tell me what’s broken’. If I can do this, I’m not handicapped or infirm or anything like that. It’s hard work, but you can do it,” Mr. Masiuk said. 

He sees combatting diabetes as a war, he said. “I look at diabetes and how we fight it in the community with different programmes and initiatives. I look at it as a war. We lose so many people to diabetes every year and we don’t have to. Not only the loss of life but also being tied up in a hospital. How do you do? You outrun diabetes, you better your health,” he said, adding that letting as many diabetics as possible know how they can fight the disease was his mission in life now. 

Monitoring blood glucose levels is vital for diabetics so they manage the condition and part of managing diabetes is exercising.