Media: Stephen England
DOB: 30th March 1980
Place of Birth: United Kingdom
Place of Residence: New York, NY, USA
Age at the time of diagnosis: 14
Years with Team Novo Nordisk: 7
I have been a runner all of my life. But at age 14, I suddenly became very ill, losing my appetite, weight and all of my energy. I went to the hospital where I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The news shook me so hard, that I passed out on the floor!
The next few days were a blur as I quickly learned how to inject myself with insulin, do blood tests and a whole lot more. I told the doctor enthusiastically about my love for running and asked how could I get rid of diabetes? The response was not what I wanted to hear. That running would have to be limited and diabetes was incurable. This news broke my heart and crushed my dreams.
I set out to find a diabetes running role model but struggled to find anyone to believe a different future was possible. Thus, my early years of living and accepting my diabetes and my running were tough going. On the tenth year of diagnosis, I ran the London Marathon. Although this was a huge milestone, it was not the dream race I had envisioned both physically and with managing my diabetes.
My mentality as a runner had to change. Insulin, blood glucose levels and carbohydrate intake were just as important factors as the weather, pace and heart rate. If my blood glucose went too low, I would be in danger of collapsing and too high, at risk for long-term organ damage. Diabetes is a game of keeping glucose levels in the middle to be competitive and healthy. Being different was a test but I never wanted it to be an excuse. I was determined; “I run diabetes, diabetes does not run me”.
I moved to the US with a renewed focus and drive and decided to try again at the marathon distance; New York, Chicago and then Boston all happened in consecutive years where every race improved both in time and with my diabetes management.
My confidence grew tenfold, which led me towards exploring an even greater challenge; ultramarathons. 50k became 50 miles and then 100 miles. I chose the Leadville 100 in Colorado as my first. It is renowned as one of the hardest races in the world with an average elevation of 11,000 ft. and less than a 50% finish rate. With odds against me, this is exactly why I chose this race. I wanted to show the world what could be achieved living with type 1 diabetes.
And it was at Leadville where I met up with Team Novo Nordisk. After 28 hours of non-stop grueling running in the mountains, I finished what I had started and was welcomed onto the team. I thought to myself, ‘who needs a role model when you can become one?’
I am now renowned as the ultra runner of Team Novo Nordisk and have gone on to run another 10 of the biggest 100 mile races around the world such as Western States, UTMB and Fat Dog 120. Nothing was however a harder test than deciding to compete at the inaugural Tahoe 200. “So many people said I would not make it, it was way too far. But they didn’t factor in my secret weapon. I had diabetes. I can’t quit diabetes so why would I ever quit a race?” After 3 days, 3 hours and only 3 hours of sleep, I circumnavigated the big lake and finished my most audacious endurance challenge to date.
Living with diabetes and running has taught me that there are no limitations to what can be achieved in life, and that being different can become your greatest strength.
“I run diabetes, diabetes does not run me.”