Team Born to Run’s 2012 4 Deserts Grand Slam

Team Born to Run

With a positive attitude and motivation, type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to define you; Roger Hanney sure doesn’t let it.

Roger was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five years ago.

“When I was diagnosed at age 33 I thought somebody was playing a cruel joke on me, I was stunned,” he said. “I was pushing toward the end of a Masters in Environmental Law and I’d started running maybe 6 months before. Everything went into a spin. Studying went out the window, and running got ramped right up. There was this evangelical zeal that probably goes best with life or death sentences.”

Last year he accomplished something no other person with type 1 diabetes had ever done. He completed the 4 Deserts Grand Slam, which includes a 250-kilometer (155-mile), seven-day, self-supported footrace across the hottest, coldest, windiest, and driest places on Earth.

Greg Donovan, one of Roger’s four running partners, was inspired to raise money for diabetes research and awareness after his son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five years ago-also around the time Roger received his diagnosis-Greg created Team Born to Run, five Australian runners who came together to complete the 4 Deserts Grand Slam as a team.

“When I met Greg for lunch and he said he wanted to put together the first team to complete this massive multiday desert running series, and it’s all to raise money and awareness for type 1 diabetes, I pulled out my pump and laughed, and he said ‘you’re in,’” said Roger.

Roger, his partner, Dr. Jess Baker, and three friends went on to run close to 250-kilometers (155-miles) through Chile’s Atacama Desert, China’s Gobi Desert, Egypt’s Sahara Desert, and Antarctica’s “frozen desert” while carrying their own supplies for a week. They finished the race running over 140-kilometers (86-miles) in Antarctica.

“As a team, the real challenge was to stay more or less within shouting distance of each other for the entire race, and to do that over 4 races totalling close to 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) all together, when you are very different people with different abilities, interests, and attitudes – that becomes the real challenge,” explained Roger.

After returning to Sydney from Antarctica, Roger went straight to a seaside town eight hours south of the city. And clearly running 4 deserts wasn’t enough for Roger because the next morning he began running 240-kilometers (149-miles) in a single-stage ultra-marathon to the top of Australia.

Although Roger and his team had a “runner’s dream year,” rich in experience of the varied wonders of the world with few difficulties, Roger still faced a few obstacles along the way. In the Gobi Desert, his cartridges for his glucose monitor turned out to be expired. Fortunately, he had a backup meter and a small supply of strips, but it was still a very close call.

“If you don’t know your BGL (blood glucose level) objectively, it’s easy to guess wrongly, especially when you’re sweating, fatigued, and hypersensitive to insulin already,” said Roger.

Another close call was on the bus trip to the Sahara Desert. One of Roger’s meters fell 6 feet onto the floor of the bus and took quite the beating. The display was a bit jagged afterward, but it continued to work okay. But, just to be sure, he took 5 meters of various sorts to Antarctica which all survived well.

“Taking your gloves off to test in Antarctica, though, not the thing you most look forward to doing there,” said Roger.

It was also tough backing up from the Sahara to Antarctica. Completing all 4 races in one year, meant that Roger and his team had to hurry back from Egypt to Australia, with only 10 days to prepare for an entirely different event before leaving again.

“It was challenging, but fantastic. Every hardship conquered became a giant beaming positive,” said Roger.

This July during Australian Diabetes Awareness Week, the Born to Run Foundation is organizing The Big Red Run in Australia’s Simpson Desert as the first of a series of fundraising events.

The Born to Run Foundation has raised around $100,000 to date which will be put towards diabetes research, programs, and charities. Allan Bolton, who helped Roger understand his diabetes and keep running, is working with for all people living with type 1 who want to be able to safely and smartly practice any kind of sport. The JDRF is also a recipient of support from


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