by Paul Mitas
Everyone has obstacles in their life, how we face those obstacles is part of what makes us. I think that is one of the reasons why Obstacle Course Racing has grown so fast and been embraced by such a wide range of people. By facing the obstacles on the course we each prove to ourselves and those around us that we can overcome things, that we are not limited by what we were given in life. One of my obstacles is diabetes; I have had type 1 diabetes for 37 years.
One of the first major obstacles I can remember is being told by the doctor was I was diagnosed at age 7 that I would be lucky if I was able to see, still had both of my legs, or that my kidneys would still be functioning by the time I turned 21. That might seem a little harsh to be telling a 7 year old, but at the time that was the normal progression of diabetes. There have been a lot of advances over the years, but that is not what this is about. I have never let diabetes or the doctor’s original predictions stop me.
When doing an OCR we each face obstacles, but I am faced with a few extra obstacles because of my diabetes. While mine situation is nowhere near some of the others I have seen out on the courses, it is still a little extra I have to deal with. For example, I always have to carry a few things with me; Glucose tabs, my blood sugar test kit, and some insulin. While this might not seem like much, all of these items must be kept dry and clean, so this requires me to run with a least a small pack that I can put the things I need into a drybag to keep them dry and safe. I have to test my blood sugar before, during, and after events, to keep it balanced and allow me to function like anyone else. I do this by testing as soon as I get to an event, before my start wave and at each water station, if not a few extra stops along the way if I am not feeling right. If my blood sugar is too low, I have to eat something, if it is too high I have to take some insulin. While the eating something doesn’t sound that difficult, imagine trying to open a package of something, GU or blocks with mittens on and slightly drunk. That is about the best way I can describe how it feels when my blood sugar is too low. My body and mind just don’t want to work together. This is a dangerous situation for me. If I don’t treat it, I could put myself into a dangerous situation very easily. I don’t think too many runners would jump off a platform into water with their hands and feet tied together but that could basically is what I could be doing if I don’t check. If my blood sugar is high I have to take a shot of insulin. Under normal circumstances that is not an issue, but during an OCR, to find or mark a clean spot on your body where you can give yourself a shot can be tough at times.
I don’t let diabetes stop me from doing things, I never have and I never will. It is just an extra obstacle that I have to face. Over the couple of years I have been doing OCRs I have helped a number of other people with diabetes learn how they can do these events or any other event. I don’t hide the fact that I have diabetes, in fact I will tell it to anyone who asks, ‘Why are you running with that pack?’ or ‘What are you doing?’ when I stop and a water station and start pulling things out of my pack.
Each of us have our own obstacles we have to face, some are way more difficult than others. So the next time you are out at an event or training and you see someone who is not moving as fast as you or is just taking a little extra time at something, don’t get all mad about them slowing you down, and ask if they are ok. If they are and you can’t wait, then go around them. If you can take a few seconds to talk to them or help them out, you might be making a big difference in some one’s life. I have competed, mostly against myself at a number of OCRs I have seen the elite athletes stop and help someone who was having a tough time, I have also seen people get all upset because someone was walking in front of them or having a tough time with something. Every one of us are different, each of us have our own obstacles to face. That is one of the great things about our sport, each event; each obstacle is a little different for each of us. When we cross that finish line it means something to each of us, some of us just have a few extra obstacles we had to face along the way.