Don Munchow: “I’m hoping to share my story with as many people living with diabetes as my way of paying it forward.”

As the saying goes, “Everything is bigger in Texas.”

To set the record for Fastest Time Known for a Run Across Texas in 27 days, 8 hours, and 36 minutes in 2019, and then run from Disneyland to Disneyworld in under 100 days would be no easy feat for even the most seasoned ultrarunners like Karl “Speedgoat” Meltzer. 

Having Type 1 diabetes and taking on these ultrarunning quests is almost unheard of. Almost. 

Ultrarunner and Type 1 diabetic Don Muchow will run across the Marana and Tucson areas Tuesday, Feb. 18 through Thursday, Feb. 20 to help raise Type 1 diabetes awareness with his group, T1 Determined, while on his way to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. T1 Determined is dedicated to inspiring those with Type 1 diabetes to incorporate exercise into their diabetes management schedule. 

“I’m not pitching anything and I’m not a wellness coach or business owner,” Muchow said. “I’m hoping to share my story with as many people living with diabetes as my way of paying it forward.”

Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas is slow to non-existent in making insulin, limiting glucose to enter into the body’s cells and make energy, according to the Mayo Clinic. Without insulin, the body’s inability to get rid of excess glucose can be damaging, if not fatal, to the individual. 

Back in 1972, when Muchow was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he said “There were no glucose meters” and doctors frequently prescribed little to no exercise to Type 1 patients due to potentially harmful decreases in blood sugar.

“I know the fear of low blood-sugar causing unconsciousness, seizures or death is a very strong and legitimate fear and keeps a lot of people from ever thinking about running around the block,” Muchow said.  

So he listened to the advice given by the doctors of his youth until diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, which damages the eye’s blood vessels and causes impaired vision and blindness. At that time, Muchow was 50 pounds overweight and his blood sugar was all over the place. Something needed to change.

“For me it was a wakeup call that whatever the risks, and where there are very real risks like not waking up the next morning, to figure out a way to do it instead of basically saying I would rather die or be blind,” Muchow said.

Muchow’s journey toward becoming an ultrarunner started in 2004, after meeting a group of runners who also had Type 1 diabetes. He said their tough love attitude inspired him to get serious about his health and exercise routine while having the condition and ultimately inspires what he does today. 

“I felt that I needed to pay it forward somehow for the handful of people who have shown me that this was even possible,” Muchow said. “They were like ‘Well, why don’t you figure it out? We all know it’s a hard process’.”

Fast forward to 2017. Muchow accomplished his personal dream of completing in an Ironman triathlon. At the event, he said he was exposed to “a broad community of people who were physically active with Type 1”. Since then, he has completed a 339-mile run across Iowa in 2018, as well as his record setting 850-mile run across Texas in 2019, spreading his active life with diabetes message. But Muchow felt the message wasn’t getting out to the larger Type I and Type 2 diabetes communities across the nation. 

“What was lacking was a high profile example that would not just inspire people who are living with Type 2 to believe that they can figure out their own way to be physically active while doing it safely,” Muchow said. “I felt that running from Disneyland to Disneyworld would be high-profile enough I could communicate the message that physical activity with Type 1 is possible.”

Muchow acknowledges the challenge of managing diabetes and physical activity can be hard, but to have faith in yourself and learn to enjoy the process. While there is no cure for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, managing a healthy lifestyle as well as taking insulin regularly helps a person live just as active as someone without it, said Muchow. 

“Yes, it’s hard because you have to do everything with one hand behind your back, testing your blood sugar,” Muchow said. “But rather than living in fear and feeling like you’ve been dealt a short deck, you’re taking control back.”

To find out more information on when Muchow will pass through Southern Arizona, check his profile at t1determined.org

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