In 2007, as a generally healthy sophomore in college, Brooke Kaplan paid a visit to the campus health center for what she thought were kidney stones. As it turned out, the prognosis was much more serious: a kidney infection, UTI, and blood sugar levels of 388 (the healthy range is 80 to 120). She was immediately sent to the hospital where she was diagnosed with insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes, which changed the course of her life.
Type 1s make up only about 5% of all diabetics. Despite many misconceptions, Type 1 diabetes is currently an incurable—and therefore lifelong—autoimmune disorder where the pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 1s can only manage the disease by regulating blood sugar levels with insulin shots, which give the body a synthetic version of the insulin the pancreas naturally produces in non-diabetic individuals. Though a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, Type 1 diabetes is not related to obesity or how someone eats.
The short-term effects of high blood sugars are extreme fatigue and mood changes, and shakiness, lack of concentration, or passing out when sugars are low. Stress, exercise, hormonal changes, and other factors can impact blood sugar levels at any time. There are many long term complications of not managing the disease as well, including nerve damage, sight issues, amputations, kidney failure, and deaths related to diabetes complications (diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in 2010), just to name a few.
Though Brooke has always lead an active lifestyle, she never considered running a half marathon until a friend challenged her to participate in the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon and raise money for Destination Races’ National Charity Partner, the American Diabetes Association. Just two months later, she had personally raised almost $2,500 for the cause!
Destination Races caught up with Brooke after the race to see how it went.
DR: How did you train for your first half marathon?
Brooke: I followed an 8-week training program that increased my distance by one mile each week before tapering two weeks before the race. I also love zumba and weightlifting so I tried to continue finding time for those activities as well.
DR: How did you feel the night before the event?
Brooke: I was really anxious. The longest race I’d run was a 5k, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My legs were sore from the training, so I did a lot of stretching and tried to get to sleep earlier (although it ended up being really restless).
DR: Can you describe your experience at the race itself?
The race was awesome! It was a really tough challenge, but the satisfaction I have in completing it made it all worthwhile. Because all of my training was on the treadmill, the road and gravel were difficult. I did the race with friends who have run several before, so I stayed with them through mile seven and had my playlist ready to help keep the energy up. One of my biggest concerns as a diabetic was making sure my blood sugar was okay throughout the run, so I checked before and after and thankfully, I was within normal range.
DR: What personally drew you to fundraise for the American Diabetes Association?
Brooke: Running for the ADA made this so much more worthwhile. When my friend first asked if I wanted to do the run I considered it, but having never really been a runner I probably would have chickened out. Running a half was never a goal for me and it’s really intimidating! But when I saw the option to fundraise, I decided I needed to do it. Any time someone would donate I would get an email notification, and it was always encouraging. Because I was training on the treadmill, I had my phone in front of me for my music, and when these notifications would pop up it would push me to go the extra mile. (Pun intended!)
DR: Last question…will you run another half marathon?
Brooke: Yes! I’m ready to sign up again.
To learn more about how you can support the American Diabetes Association through Destination Races, visit our charities page and click on the event of your choice.