26.2 Incredible Miles Closer to a World Free of Diabetes

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Team Joslin gathered at runners village on marathon Monday

I asked each member of Team Joslin to sign my Joslin jersey as I wanted each member of the team to be with me for every step of the 2016 Boston Marathon.

The gun went off signaling that the marathon had started. The only direction to go was forward, towards Boylston Street. Monday was a celebration of hard work over many months, of training and aching legs, of focused dedication to preparing for the marathon.

Olivia, a member of the 2015 Joslin Boston Marathon Team, told me that she and her daughter, Haley, would be cheering from just past Wellesley College. I kept Haley in mind as I heard the infamous Wellesley scream tunnel. Faster I ran, pushing past the scream tunnel and to the top of the hill where Haley was cheering. I ran to the left side of the course and picked Haley up for a big hug. I ran into Haley’s cheering station feeling tired and overheated, but I left feeling refreshed, reminded of why I run for Joslin. Suddenly, my legs felt lighter and I felt a renewed sense of motivation as I pushed forward.

My next stop was the Joslin Cheer Station, located at mile 15, which is always one of the highlights of the marathon for me. This year I was simply overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of people cheering for Team Joslin. There is no way to articulate the emotional impact of seeing so many people supporting you. As I ran past the station, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am to be running for Joslin, an organization that is so supportive of its people.

The Joslin station reminded me that we, the runners, are pursuing something greater than ourselves. We are completing something truly extraordinary that is made possible solely through the support of the people around us.

The next significant section of the course was Heartbreak Hill. I ran up Heartbreak Hill. I refuse to do anything less. I refuse to show the Boston Marathon anything less than greatness on that hill.

Further down Heartbreak Hill, I ran past a water station. One of the volunteers at that water station saw me as I ran by, shouting “Hey! You’re the team captain! Keep it up!” A volunteer, whom I had never met, recognized me and supported Team Joslin in the best possible way.

I kept pushing, knowing that I was approaching mile 23. Moments after I ran past mile 23, my eyes darted to the spectators standing just inches away. I saw a familiar face. Dr. Howard Wolpert, my doctor at Joslin, shook my hand as I ran past him. He sent me towards Boylston Street with a smile and a “Congratulations!”

I kept running. I ran past the infamous Citgo sign. This landmark only means one thing: we are close to the finish. As I ran past the Citgo sign, a spectator ran alongside me. He told me that he is the camp director of a local diabetes camp and he thanked me for running for Joslin.

I put my head down. And I focused on finishing this race, this test of the human spirit and will to overcome tremendous adversity. I had two more moments ahead of me – one just before the finish line, and one just after.

I saw the grandstands ahead of me. I knew my parents were sitting in those seats. I saw my mom first, cheering above the noise that reverberated along Boylston Street. Moments later, I saw my dad, his fist pumping in the air as I raced towards the finish. Those moments culminated many months of hard work. To run a marathon is to complete a uniquely singular endeavor – an endeavor that relies on the physical effort of one person, supported by many. It was through the support of my parents that I was able to complete the 2016 Boston Marathon.

My final Boston Marathon moment was ahead of me, just after I crossed the finish line. Lori Seuch, a member of the 2015 Joslin Boston Marathon Team, was providing heat jackets to every runner who crossed the finish line. I located Lori at the finish line, hobbling over to her for a jacket. It was by sheer coincidence that Linda Schoendorf, a runner on the 2016 Joslin Boston Marathon Team, was waiting for a heat jacket at the same time. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to culminate the marathon. Standing alongside members of Team Joslin, both past and present, was the perfect way to mark the end of a journey that I am lucky to have embarked upon.

As I looked around at my fellow runners, the aches and the pains started to set in. My diabetes management, though, could not have been better during the marathon. My blood sugars at miles 11, 16, and 20 were perfect. These numbers helped me to keep my mind completely focused on the race – a luxury that allows me to focus less on the stress of high or low blood sugars, and more on the experience of the marathon.

The only unexpected aspect of my diabetes management was the amount of water and Gatorade I drank throughout the marathon. The weather on the day of the marathon was hot – well above 70 degrees for the duration of the marathon. I knew that good blood sugar management throughout the marathon would depend, at least in part, on drinking enough water. But I drank more water than I expected to need as I ran from Hopkinton to Boylston. I am confident, though, that this hydration only helped to achieve good blood sugars throughout the marathon.

As I found myself walking down Clarendon Street, thinking through my Boston Marathon, I found myself standing on an escalator in the Prudential Center, my pink headband pulled over my eyes as I cried.

I went down the escalator, thankful for the moments I experienced over the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. It is in those moments that I am on top of the world. And it is in those moments that the Boston Marathon allows me to change the future of diabetes with Joslin Diabetes Center. I wouldn’t want to mark my Marathon Monday any other way.

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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