Bio

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Media: Stephen England

Age: 38

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.”

22 comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    HOw is running with the Dexcom G4 going? I am hypoglycemic and debating getting a glucose monitor for running.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Jonathan,

      CGM’s are great tools but I personally would not get one purely for the main purpose of exercise. They show trending data, not live data. Unless your insurance is the best of the best, they are also quite expensive. My advice would be to consult your doctor who knows your health the best. Good luck. SE

  2. Mike says:

    I am greatly encouraged, reading your blog and achievements as a type 1 diabetic. To know thatits possible to one day run an ultra is sensational and is a dream of mine. I wanted to ask you 2 questions:
    1. What type of insulin therapy do you use to control your blood glucose levels?
    2. How do you waterproof your Dexcom? Having to wear longer shorts with pockets so that I can put my Dexcom, which is in a zip lock bag, inside the pocket gets uncomfortable sometimes.

    Keep running and changing diabetes!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, anything is possible, even running 100 miles!! As I am part of a team sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, I am unfortunately unable to answer those kind of questions. My advice to you, is to speak directly with your health care provider to find out what works best for you. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Good luck with your dream. Make it come true!

    • Hey Mike I use an Aquapak. It is a dry bag made for pumps. I replaced the nylon belt with an elastic/velcro one so that I can make it tight and not fiddle with it all the time. I find the nylon ones are always looser and need to be retightened too often. I use a medtronic pump, myself, but it is a universal pump bag I believe.

  3. I love seeing other diabetics kick butt. I’ll be doing my first ultra this spring with a 50k at the superior trails in MN.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hey Darrell. This is awesome to hear!!! Good luck with the training!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Darrell, how did the ultra go?!!

      • It went well. I was able to keep my glucose between 7 and 10mmol for the event. I would use Gu and a small bolus to control the rate of change in the levels. Ate about 1 Gu/hr, tried to eat other stuff but my stomach didn’t agree with my lips.

        I had 45km in me and was top 20 until after the last aid station and then it slowed right down and I finished 60th out of 177. I cannot complain though, I learned to deal with exhaustion and was able to run the next day. Plus, I had never run more than 32km before that day.

        I really noticed a difference in performance when I was 7mmol/L vs 10.0mmol/L. Just felt better and more aware. Usually when training I am pushing more and don’t have the mindfulness to be aware of that.

        I had a checklist of things for diabetes to carry such as a spare pump site installed, another in my backback along with a syring and I did not end up needing them. I had started taping the overtape with a cloth flexible tape and it kept everything on. This had been a real issue for me as sweat/heat kills the adhesive.

        The best part is, the experience of dealing with the exhaustion the last 7 or so km has telegraphed into my speedwork and other running. I can tap that feeling and use it to push through and carry on. Helped me in a couple local 5km races recently.

        As a big testament to the experience, I am going to run the Wild Duluth 50km (WD50) in October.

  4. This is so great to see! I’m a Type1 as well and live in Durango, CO. I’ve been running half-marathons for the last few years and have learned a lot. I tried to train for my first full last year but just kept getting too sick … but have changed a few things and am trying again this year (Mt. Sneffles in Ouray, CO in August)!

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Lindsay,
      Thanks for your message. I was out in Telluride last September before UROC 100K (Breck to Vail), love it out there. Great to hear you are not letting the T1 get in your way! Go get em in August at Mt. Sneffles. I know you can! Keep me posted.

      Stephen

  5. Al D'Alessio says:

    It was an honor to have you at the Princeton ADA ride yesterday and to be in the same photo op with you. I enjoyed both our chat after the ride and visiting your web site. Best of luck in your athletic and professional endeavors.

    Al

    • rundiabetes says:

      Al, great to meet you at the event and thanks for the note on here. Loved the old school TT1 kit btw too! Keep up your awesome biking accomplishments, you rock!

  6. Kevin Murdock says:

    Hi , I read your report on Bear Mountain race and cramping , have been doing ultras for a few years now and I think cramping occurs more whenever my blood glucose levels are too high at race start , good luck at Tahoe later in year looks like a great race.

    • rundiabetes says:

      Kevin, the cramping theories are wide and varied. I don’t doubt high BG’s could well be a factor. It’s just another reason to strive for really tight control as athletes and diabetics. Thanks for reading and the well wishes, Tahoe is going to be a blast for sure.

  7. Matt Roberts says:

    Hi Stephen, thanks for the encouraging website. I’m a type 1 diabetic that likes to run, have done a 50-miler that went really well, would love to run 100 miles. So glad to hear another diabetic has done it (and twice that 🙂 ). Do you carry a glucometer with you? I worry about confusing fatigue with blood sugar issues later in the race, don’t know if I want to wait till an aid station to check it. Thanks,

    Matt from Iowa

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Matt, thanks for your message. Awesome work on the 50, sounds like you are ready for the 100 this year! Great question. It really depends on the race distance/difficulty. For a marathon or less, I don’t and for a 100K plus I do (helps that I wear my hydration pack at these distances). The 50K/50M races is trickier and that’s where you have to weigh up how long it will take you between aid stations. If you wear a hydration pack and can store it easily, it’s a no brainer. It’s also super helpful to have spare meters in drop bags or with your crew at aid stations. Good luck with your year of racing. Stephen

  8. Mikael says:

    Hi,
    I have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and last year I signed up to run Transalpine Run in September. I really want to start and of course complete the race. I have never been running on such high altitude and not seven days in a row for that matter. What do you recommend and suggest me to do? It’s only 6 months ahead. Is it too soon, too close for me?

    Regards
    Mikael

    • rundiabetes says:

      Hi Mikael,
      Congrats on going after such a huge and epic race! You will have an amazing time I am sure and show that T1D does not slow you down! I am not sure of the logistics (for transporting your bags) so I would strongly suggest carrying enough supplies with you for the worst case scenario. The weight should not be anything substantial and I imagine much of the trails involve plenty of hiking and moderate paced running. Altitude is another factor and you should monitor your blood glucose even more so than you normally would. Test, test and test some more. Make it part of your routine when you stop for water refills, changing clothes etc. Train well and get back to me with any more Q’s as you get closer. Best, Stephen

      • Many thanks for your reply. I am back on track with training but I am curious about your insuline during racing. I don’t have a pump, I use injection instead. A lot of energy is being used while racing and my question is do you just eat and drink and does not bother about the insuline at all? Or is your experience that you need insuline regardless of how long time you are running?

        Regards
        Mikael

        • rundiabetes says:

          Mikael,
          For a marathon, no I do not add insulin but for ultras, yes I do. How I choose to use insulin during racing is based on my blood glucose, my effort, how long is left in the race and also carb counting. These are just a few factors. It is not to say I won’t eat/drink something and not add insulin. If my glucose is lower than desired, I may choose not too. Speak with your diabetes educator about this for YOU. It is a very personal topic and the answer varies among all athletes with diabetes.

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