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One might think that Tom Grossman had exhausted his need for physical challenges after participating in the Run Across America-a grueling 15-day test of endurance with runs that covered more than 25 miles a day.
But having conquered that challenge-which featured 10 runners with type 1 diabetes, including Grossman- doesn't make his upcoming Medtronic Global Heroes run through the Twin Cities next Sunday, October 6, any less special.
Grossman was one of 25 elite long-distance runners accepted from a field of 300 applicants to participate in the Minneapolis-based run, held in conjunction with the Twin Cities Marathon and designed specifically for those who have overcome a medical condition using an implanted medical device.
(The Global Heroes event, which got its start in 2006, features runners with pacemakers, neurostimulators to manage chronic pain, shunts, defibrillators and other implantable devices to help them manage chronic conditions.)
For Grossman, a 40-year-old married father of four, that device is an insulin pump, which was a life-altering addition to his health care regimen.
"It most definitely improved my quality of life," he said, adding that the pump allows him more freedom when it comes to exercise and meal planning, and releases him from a strict schedule.
The pump was vital to his successful Run Across America, which he calls "the most difficult thing I've ever done so far."
He imagined that his team of runners would be so plagued by injuries that they would fail to finish the trek from California to New York, but determination, drive and a desire to raise awareness about the endless field of possibilities open to those with type 1 diabetes helped propel them across the finish line- a day earlier than expected.
"It seemed so unlikely, diabetes or no diabetes, but it was personal enough for everyone involved," said Grossman, who began his long-distance running hobby with a 5K, and naturally found himself setting new, tougher goals.
His drive comes from the realization that even if we live well into our golden years, we really only get about 36,000 days, and those are days that Grossman would prefer spending focused on things he can do rather than things he can't.
"I want to make everything count, and live life to the fullest," he said.
That means helping to inspire others with diabetes by showing them that living an active, healthy life is absolutely possible, even it might seem difficult at the starting line.
"That's definitely one of the motivators for me," said Grossman. "That's where you can really change somebody's mind. Witnessing something personally can surprise them out of the mindset that they're in."
Grossman especially appreciates the Medtronic event, because it opens the door for people with health issues to push past their perceived limitations and achieve goals that at one time might not have seemed possible.
It also features several different events ranging from 5 and 10K runs to a 10-mile and a marathon to accommodate runners of all fitness levels and abilities.
"By allowing those distances it's more of an inclusive event," said Grossman. "There's a place for everyone."
Runner James McGurl's High-Octane Life
James McGurl, 23, is also looking forward to the Medtronic run as an opportunity to inspire others diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to live bold, dynamic lives.
The Massachusetts-based athlete sees his diagnosis as a gift that opened doors that otherwise would have stayed closed for him if diabetes had not played a part.
After being diagnosed in his early teens, McGurl attended his first diabetes camp, and enjoyed it so much that the kid who already never even experienced an overnight away from home soon found himself signing up for more high-octane adventures, including a week-long backpacking trip into the wilderness of New Hampshire and Vermont.
That first trip was brutal.
"It rained the whole time, the stuff was soaking wet, no one slept," said McGurl, whose laid-back attitude on the outback adventure led to an invite the next year to lead the trek, even though he was a few years younger than some of the other participants.
"It's something that I otherwise wouldn't have done," he said. "Being diagnosed with diabetes really opened my eyes."
Through high school and beyond, he continued focusing on athletics, and hard-won games of lacrosse soon led to hard-core running, as well as a spot as captain of his college running team.
Since he was already covering 30 to 35 miles a week, marathons came almost naturally, after overcoming an initial bout of nerves.
"I didn't think I had the guts to do it, but finishing, it's definitely a feeling of accomplishment," said McGurl, who also wears an insulin pump, which makes the erratic nature of his athletic life easier to manage.
He's set a personal goal to run the 10-mile event in 70 minutes, and hopes to use the race as an opportunity to help influence others living with diabetes, something he's been doing proudly ever since he led that first trek into the wilds of New England a few years ago.
For more information, visit www.medtronic.com/2013globalheroes.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.