The excitement of Marathon Monday began this morning at dawn as thousands of runners proceeded towards the buses that shuttled them to the race start in Hopkinton. Spectators began claiming their spots and lining the streets to wave and cheer the runners along. As the 10 am start time quickly approaches, the natural buzz of energy is erupting through the crowd and the runners.
At the sound of the starting gun the runners will take off to embark on one of best, most exciting races in the world: the legendary Boston Marathon.
20 thousand people travel from all over to participate in the world’s oldest annual marathon, and what most call a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone runs for a different reason, whether it’s for fun with friends or to raise money for a charity.
Among those thousands of runners pushing through the treacherous course is Team Joslin, 12 participants who have come together to conquer 26.2 miles to raise money and to bring awareness to diabetes. Some have run before, some have signed up through the charity for their first marathon experience. But everyone on the team is tied to diabetes in some way, whether they are running for themselves or running for a family member or friend.
One team member running for Team Joslin for his second consecutive year is Chris Meusel.
In July of 2003, Chris was misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 32. Shortly thereafter, in September of the same year, he visited the Joslin Clinic at Nashoba Valley Medical Center where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
At first, Chris had a hard time managing his diabetes. With blood glucose levels constantly out of control, he had difficulty figuring out what food to eat.
However, he eventually learned that through eating the right kinds of food and staying active, he could live the same healthy life as anyone else.
Chris is now in the best shape of his life thanks to Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and a monster fitness training program three to four times a week that was constructed by his Kung Fu teacher. Similar to Cross Fit, monster fitness training consists of heavy punching bag work (kicking, punching, knees, throws) and weightlifting. In addition to these intense training programs, Chris runs 20 to 25 miles a week.
“My intention was never to hit long distances. I just wanted to get in shape and control my blood sugars better,” explained Chris. “So, I joined Plum Blossom Tai Chi Kung Fu Academy and I signed up for a Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. I just wanted to be able to compete, so I set my goal to be able to run 8 miles, and now I can run that with ease.”
Last year was Chris’ first marathon, as well as his first race ever. The training was incredibly challenging and during his training week of reaching 19 miles, he strained a calf muscle halfway out.
The heat was oppressive the day of the marathon, but he didn’t let that deter him. At mile 11 he had to stop at a medical tent to ice the same calf he had injured 5 weeks prior. The nurse told him a bus was getting ready to head back to the city if he wanted to get on, but he refused and told himself he would crawl across the finish line at midnight if he had to.
A couple of Chris’ friends met him at mile 15 and ran about half a mile with him, while another friend met him at the Newton Firehouse and walked to the top of the second of the Newton Hills with him. Chris noted that their support through this difficult task truly kept him going to the finish line.
“I finished in 6:53, 100 places before the last person to finish, which I guess is good, if we were being chased by a herd of 99 Tyrannosaurus Rex,” Chris joked. “As it is, I am proud of finishing, especially limping the last 6 miles. I am definitely out for redemption this year and hope to complete in 4:30,” said Chris.
Chris learned how to manage his diabetes through these long races by figuring out what his body burns every hour. To stay safe he keeps a carb up one sleeve and water up the other during the races.
“I test when I’m done and usually fall in the 100-150 range. Then my body will usually consume another 60 carbs or so without insulin as it starts repairing,” explained Chris.
Chris says he never could have completed a race like this 8 years ago. He’s come a long way in the past two years and refuses to go back to his old habits of pounding carbs and sitting on the couch like he had been when he was first diagnosed with diabetes.
“If I keep setting a bar to train for, I’ll keep up my regimen,” said Chris.
Another team member, competing for his first time, is one of Joslin’s 50 year medalists, Michael Frederick.
Michael was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Dec. 1962 just before his 4th birthday.
Growing up, Michael was in denial about his diabetes, but was determined to prove his invincibility to the disease. He struggled with properly controlling his diabetes and continued to smoke and drink throughout high school.
However, after graduating, he got into architecture school where he found his passion for design. One day while hiking the Appian Way outside Rome, while studying the architectural classics, Michael lost all sight in his left eye. His blood glucose was extremely low when the blood vessels on his retina burst.
He underwent two years of laser treatments, during which he lost sight in both eyes several times, until he eventually restored sight in his right eye.
In his fifth year of architecture school, Michael began dating his wife, Jane. They married soon after graduation and he stopped smoking and started exercising.
Although never having run a marathon, Michael has participated in many 100 mile bike rides. He decided to start running when he realized it was too dark after work to be riding a bike on the road.
After receiving the Joslin 50 year medal award last Dec. and joining Team Joslin, he’s increased his running distance with the motivation to complete the Boston Marathon.
While running Michael pays close attention to his insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor to accurately measure and manage his highs and lows.
Michael can still see out of his right eye. And he now spends every day designing homes for people who live in the south that embody the region’s architectural and natural heritage. Michael also says he is healthier now than ever.
“I would be blind and probably dead if I didn’t exercise,” said Michael.
In addition to riding his bike and running, Michael rows with the Beaufort Rowing Club in South Carolina. He explained that getting his heart rate up three to four time a week is vital to keeping blood flow to his toes, fingers, and brain cells.
“An insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor, and regular hard exercise have enabled me to keep my A1C around 6. Most importantly Jane, my wonderful wife of 30 years, is the world’s best cook. We eat only delicious, fresh, and good food,” said Michael.
Michael hopes to raise $10,000 towards a cure for diabetes, run the Boston Marathon in less than 4 hours, and eventually receive Joslin’s 75 year Metal.
Team Joslin is still taking donations!