Running with diabetes: Man runs 223 miles
Feb. 17, 2018
GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) — Crossing the finish line of a 223-mile relay race as a solo runner is quite an accomplishment very few athletes achieve in a lifetime.
Add Type 1 diabetes to the mix, and it seems like a feat nearly impossible. Nearly.
Former Greenwood resident, and Type 1 diabetic, Don Muchow completed Texas' Capital to Coast Relay, spanning from Austin to Corpus Christi, in October as a solo participant.
The 56-year-old, who has been running for more than 10 years, said during a race of endurance, he's learned one important lesson that has helped with his success.
"You can't push past the disease," he said. "You can push past the pain and the sleep, but diabetes always wins. You just have to accept that and play by those rules."
Muchow resides in Plano, Texas, with his wife, Leslie Nolen.
He and his family moved from Ruislip, England, to Greenwood after his father retired from the Navy in 1973.
His father, Ed Muchow, started the Navy ROTC program at Greenwood High School.
Muchow grew up in Greenwood, where he attended school from seventh to 12th grade. He is a 1979 graduate of Greenwood High School.
Muchow was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a child while living in England.
"At that time, that was before glucose meters had been invented and insulin pumps had been invented," he said.
Because "a very small overdose of insulin can kill you," Muchow said he was warned at an early age about the effects of exercise on a diabetic, since activity causes an increase in insulin production.
"I had not been physically active, because I was afraid of throwing the balance between my meals and insulin off," he said. "It's very hard to be physically active with Type 1."
In 2004, Muchow found himself 50 pounds overweight and living a "life of horrible control."
Around the time he made a decision to live a more healthful lifestyle, he began having vision problems and had to see a specialist.
Blood was leaking into his eye, a condition called retinopathy, and he underwent a treatment.
"It was kind of like, 'No, no, I am being good,'" said Muchow. "It was a psychological kick in the gut, because I decided to do the right thing. I didn't want to be that person."
Muchow made a promise to himself to continue to put his health first in hopes of saving his vision.
That's when his wife registered the couple for their first race — the 5K YMCA Turkey Trot in Dallas.
Muchow said that first race was daunting.
"It was uncomfortable and not fun, but I felt like I had done a good thing," he said.
Because of that, Muchow said he continued with running.
"The feeling that I was rewarding myself in some intangible way is what I clung to until I started to see results," he said. "I knew it was the right thing, and I had to cling to the idea that it was going to pay off some day."
And it did. Muchow began losing weight.
He said he went through two wardrobe changes because of the weight loss.
"It was definitely not a fast path," he said. "I was happy for that 1 pound a month."
While shedding the pounds, Muchow also developed a newfound confidence in his own athletic ability.
That's when he decided to test himself.
Muchow said he was attracted to running because it was the first form of exercise he tried.
"It was cheap and easy to do, and there were not that many ways to do it wrong," he said. "I had to keep those barriers low."
Muchow started slow with walking and spending time on an elliptical machine and working his way up to running. This helped to prevent injury.
Muchow knew soon he wanted to eventually work his way up to a half-marathon. In 2005, he reached out to other diabetic runners for advice. He found a couple of people and began learning about how to manage his Type 1 while doing strenuous physical activity, such as running for more than 13 miles without a break.
The small group of athletes soon formed a local Dallas chapter of a national organization for Type 1 runners. The group now has 700 members.
In 2009, five years after starting to run, Muchow participated in his first half-marathon.
"That day was a good day for me," he said. "I had learned the value of training, so I knew what my sugar was going to do. As a diabetic, you test your sugar a lot and you try not to get excited and try to go there and treat it like any other day at the office."
He had one small hiccup during the race. Muchow had to depend on the reading of his glucose sensor attached to his stomach, rather than a glucose monitor, which is recommended for a more accurate blood sugar reading. He, however, finished the race successfully.
"I really got jazzed about that," he said. "It was very empowering to feel like I had worked around it. It gave me a sense that difficult stuff was just that. It was difficult, because it was a challenge, not because it was impossible. It was just difficult. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."
Since then, he has finished third overall in a quadruple marathon — four marathons four days in a row. He finished a full Ironman — 2.4-mile swim, 118-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run — and a 100-mile ultra-marathon.
"I started to get more confident that I could push the boundaries a little bit and it'd be OK," he said. "Something might go wrong, but I would be OK."
Muchow pushed those boundaries from Oct. 18 to Oct. 21 last year, when he became only the third person in the Capital to Coast Relay's eight-year history to run all 223 miles himself. He was the first Type 1 diabetic to do so.
"There are definitely some challenges," Muchow said of running as a Type 1 diabetic.
The race consisted of strategic and logistical planning. Not only did he have to plan for breaks and rest, but he also had to take into account the time it would take to check his blood sugar. Muchow also ran with continuous glucose monitoring, while making sure he rested and ate enough.
He crew was headed by his wife, Leslie, and consisted of Angie Wagner, navigator and driver; and Josh Fabian, a fellow Type 1 runner who served as Muchow's pacer for half the event.
Muchow attributes much of his success to his crew, especially his wife, who had to talk him into a quick 30-minute nap after a bout of hallucinations and not being able to think clearly on the last day of the race.
"One of the things about being Type 1 is you always have to have a support crew — it's your family and friends and co-workers," he said. "You don't do stuff without your crew. ... This, without my wife's support and the crew's support, would not have been possible."
Muchow made it to the Corpus Christi finish line at 7:20 p.m., right at sunset and about 10 minutes before the cutoff.
After his 223-mile accomplishment, Muchow is continuing to test his athleticism.
He will participate as a solo runner in Relay Iowa, a 339-mile trek this summer.
After that, Muchow is planning an 850-mile cross-Texas run in 2019 that should take him about three weeks to complete.
He is planning for a transcontinental run across the United States in 2020, which would be just before his 60th birthday. Muchow estimates the route will be about 3,000 miles, and he plans to through Greenwood.
"As I make my way, I would like nothing better than to pass through my hometown," he said.