Another New Year often means it’s time for another round of New Year’s resolutions. For many of us, our resolutions involve making lifestyle changes to try to live healthier. William Gould, who lives with type 2 diabetes, made a goal to live healthier by training for and completing a Walt Disney World® Half Marathon; the first of many races. I have the pleasure of sharing William’s story with you today.
In March 2011, William was working 60-plus hours a week as a healthcare executive and attending graduate school full-time. When he started feeling unwell, he attributed it to his long hours at work and exhaustion. However, after his wife urged him to see his doctor, William was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. After William’s diagnosis, it became clear to him that he needed to make a lifestyle change.
“My entire family has been extremely supportive,” William said. “It’s been an opportunity to focus on nutrition, health and taking care of ourselves. I think it brings a greater awareness in our family to health and wellness. My doctor was great too; he checked up on me quite a bit, just a phone call or a conversation to see how things were going. The first few months were absolutely overwhelming, trying to get my mind around what this really meant and what I was going to do to change my lifestyle and having their support was very helpful.”
Though he was an athlete in college, William acknowledged that he wasn’t as active as he used to be. He tried to run for a number of years but never really stuck with it. “When I got diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I decided that I really needed to make exercise a priority,” William said. He impulsively signed up to run a Walt Disney World Half Marathon and started a seven month training program to do so.
“Like a lot of people I read about, running wasn’t very much fun when I started. But having that goal out there, and involving my family by making a vacation out of my first race helped me to really stick with the training. After about a month or so, I started realizing that I was feeling better. It started becoming more enjoyable.”
After seven months of intense training, William finally achieved his goal of running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January of 2012. “I’m not fast by any means,” he said. “I didn’t break any records, and I’ll probably never even win anything in my age division, but I love the fact I’m able to keep training. There’s a bit of competition in those racing events, but the biggest competition is always with myself and setting goals to get faster.”
William soon found support in the running community. “As I started running, I started connecting with other runners,” he said. “I found that a lot of my professional connections were also runners. I connected with people on Twitter, LinkedIn®, Facebook and other social media platforms. Those connections led to sharing stories and training tips. Runners love to talk about running. It’s been very helpful for me to have a community of people to reach out to. People check in with you and make sure you’re sticking with your training plan, so there’s a little accountability to stick to the goals that you set.”
As William continued training, he realized he had unique challenges as a runner living with type 2 diabetes. “I think part of my struggle was in understanding how to balance nutrition, a lower carbohydrate diet and managing diabetes with running,” he said. “I tried looking for answers and information online, but didn’t find much from people living with type 2, particularly resources for endurance athletes.” When William found a lack of resources for endurance runners with type 2 diabetes, he decided to create one and started blogging at iRunDiabetes to share hope with those who may be struggling to make and sustain healthy lifestyle changes.
The absence of type 2 bloggers has stuck with William, leading him to feel at times like what he calls a “diabetes fraud.” “I have wondered if other type 2’s weren’t online because of a perception that type 2 diabetes is somehow a lesser condition to deal with than type 1,” he said. “I have questioned whether type 2’s really have to deal with the same type of issues and have the same message to share. As I’ve started connecting with more people who have diabetes, I’ve concluded over time that it’s very individualized in the types of things that we deal with. While there are a lot of commonalities, it’s a very personal experience, and we all have our own stories to tell.”
Working with a nutritionist, an endocrinologist and his primary care provider, William is experimenting with a training and treatment plan that works for him. When he’s out running, William says there are special considerations he’s sure to take into account. “Some of my longer runs are pushing three hours. I’m vigilant about checking my blood sugars,” he said. “One of the things I’m still trying to work on is making sure I’m able to replace glucose just like any other athlete. As a diabetic, I also want to make sure I’m not going too low.” In order to monitor his glucose levels during long distance runs, William wears a continuous glucose monitor.
When asked what tips he has for others who want to start running, William advised, “I tell anybody who’s going to start, just start slow. For many people who are diagnosed with type 2, there are some lifestyle changes that often occur. Setting huge expectations or making monumental changes can be a recipe for failure. I think we overcomplicate change. Sometimes we set our goals too big and overwhelm ourselves. Make the little behaviors habits and then progressively build on them to lead a healthier lifestyle. You’re going to have hard days where you just aren’t motivated or things hurt, and that’s okay. It’s part of the progress that you make.”
William recently participated in the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes® with his 14-year-old son. “I had not been involved in many online or in-person diabetes events,” he said. “It was great to have the opportunity to start interacting and meeting some people in the local diabetes community. The walk was a lot of fun.” William’s son also occasionally trains and runs 5Ks and 10Ks with him.
I really admire William’s determination to not only stick with running, but also to share his experiences with others through his blog. My thanks to William for taking the time to share his story and advice with our readers.
All the best,
Disclosure: William Gould received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Walt Disney World is a registered trademark of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
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Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes is a registered service mark of the American Diabetes Association, Inc.