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Man with diabetes becomes first person to run from Disneyland to Disney World


(NEW YORK) — Don Muchow just became the first person to run from Disneyland to Disney World.

The 59-year-old ultramarathoner decided to run from California to Florida to prove his Type 1 diabetes doesn’t hold him back.

The “Mouse to Mouse” run was 2,761 miles long and took Muchow 88 days to complete.

Muchow shares more of his history making journey from Disneyland to Disney World below:

Why did you choose Disney?

“Disney’s slogan, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it,’ goes double for everyone like me, with serious lifelong medical conditions.

“Our diagnosis is like a second sport that we have to master just so we can do the fun stuff — like run, ride or swim. Some dreams are harder to fulfill, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on them.

“It’s definitely harder to do these things with an autoimmune disease like Type 1 diabetes, but the challenge makes the success even sweeter. Every day is a victory.

“So when the son of a Type 1 friend suggested Disneyland to Disney World, it instantly clicked.”

How hard was the journey? What toll did it take on your body?

“Physically, it wasn’t as hard as it was psychologically. I’ve run in Texas and other dry areas, so I expected blisters, fatigue and swollen ankles. After 10 days, we’d take a rest day which helped a lot.

“However, psychologically it was more of a strain because I had to mentally prepare to pause for my father’s funeral and then later on again due to the pandemic. It was challenging to stop twice and get my gears up and running again. Patience was the hardest part for me through this whole thing.”

How did you monitor your diabetes while on the road?

“I had my Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor and Tandem t:slim insulin pump on at all times. Thankfully, my wife was able to track me on the Dexcom Follow app to see how my blood glucose levels were doing in real-time. She would know even before I did about what kinds of fuel I needed at every stop. When I’d arrive at the van in about 3 to 4 miles, she’d greet me, for example, with hummus or cookies, depending on the reading.

“I’m thankful that my wife would join me on this journey as she drove the vehicle with supplies and water at various checkpoints.”

Did you ever think you’d be this active with diabetes?

“I spent my first 30 years after being diagnosed being very inactive. I never considered myself an active person, but in 2004, feeling like the boogeyman of diabetes complications might be creeping up on me, I ran my first 5K. This was a pivotal moment for me by making this lifestyle change to not let my diabetes take over my life. I never thought in my wildest dreams that we’d be getting this much attention or conversations started about diabetes.”

What does it mean to be the first person to run from Disneyland to Disney World?

“It’s a little surreal. I’ve been very happy about bringing more attention to the struggle people with Type 1 diabetes face with being active. My objective is to get the word out to start rather than not start at all. I tell people all the time that I was very close to taking the wrong turn in the fork in the road between being active or being a victim to diabetes.

“What’s more, my wife and I had the opportunity of a lifetime to connect with people across the United States who shared with us their stories of loved ones with diabetes. Yesterday, we chatted with a woman whose son has diabetes and started talking shop about ways he can be more active. That’s what this is all about, raising awareness about diabetes and the positive impact that lifestyle changes and technology can make.”

Is this the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

“It was among the hardest things, but in a very different way. The scope, distance and duration of the effort made it more difficult. It took years to plan and prep. It also tested me and my wife through many unforeseen circumstances. I don’t know if we’d do it again, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

“If this run is an example of just one person making a difference to raise awareness, then it served its purpose. I was drawn to a goal and opportunity to change my life and pay it forward. I’m very happy with the results because when people are inspired, then I’ve paid it forward.”

What advice do you have for other people with diabetes?

“I would tell folks to not criticize themselves. Try not to be a victim and most of all, don’t give up on yourself. See what others are doing and adapt it for yourself. If you’re out there and have diabetes, you’re not alone. There are hundreds and thousands of us struggling with the same issues with being physically active. This community is strong, connected and here to figure it out together. Don’t go it alone.”

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