50 Years of Helping Athletes with Diabetes: A Conversation with Dr. Edward Horton

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Dr. Edward Horton (photo)

Edward Horton, MD, has spent 50 years pursuing cutting-edge research at the intersection of exercise and diabetes management. Dr. Horton supported the first people with Type 1 Diabetes to ever complete the New York City Marathon.

Dr. Horton’s extensive career in exercise and diabetes was fascinating. Dr. Horton explained the history of endurance events for people with Type 1 Diabetes and the complicated management routine employed for marathon runners with Type 1 Diabetes in the 1990’s. Dr. Horton’s athletes tested blood sugar at specific points in the marathon, and utilized a cell phone to call an improvised aid station just a mile down the road. The athletes informed the aid station of their blood glucose levels, and the aid station volunteers prepared the correct amount of food as the athletes ran towards the aid station. My own diabetes management is much more efficient today – depending upon cell phone tracking and text messages. A lot of progress has been made since  the 1990’s. However, it wasn’t that long ago that people with Type 1 Diabetes weren’t allowed to participate in a variety of endurance events.

Dr. Horton explained that people with Type 1 Diabetes weren’t allowed to run marathons 20 to 30 years ago. Simply, people with Type 1 Diabetes were actively prohibited from running marathons. Race organizers simply weren’t willing to take on the liability of having a runner with Type 1 Diabetes on their course. This wasn’t just the case in running, though. Dr. Horton mentioned other sports, like scuba diving, where people with Type 1 Diabetes weren’t allowed to participate.

Providing Support

I ran my first back in 2013. I showed up on race day, unsure of what to expect – or if I could even finish. As I started running, though, I connected with another runner early on. She was part of a relay team, and was only scheduled to run specific sections of the marathon. However, the sections she was scheduled to run were the sections where I needed the most help. We always found each other during these sections, and the support we provided to each other ensured that we both successfully crossed the finish line.

I have not stopped running in the years since that first marathon. The 2017 Boston Marathon will mark my 5th marathon – and my 4th consecutive Boston Marathon. Somehow, the right person always shows up at the right time to provide needed support.  These people include my fellow runners on Team Joslin, who inspire me to wake up for early training runs and complete tough hill workouts after a long day at work. These people include my training partner from my recent long run in Newton, who understood the demands of running up Heartbreak Hill. And these people include leaders, like Dr. Horton, who have the guidance and wisdom to help me run a better marathon.

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