Don Muchow Hopes to Become the Fastest Type 1 Diabetic to Run Across the U.S.
Plano resident Don Muchow had been afraid to exercise his whole life. When diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 11 years old, he was told by his doctor that any type of physical activity could kill him.
Because Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own insulin-producing cells, it disrupts the body’s process for sugar usage and storage. The immediate risk for Type 1 diabetics is a dangerously low blood sugar level. Many outside factors can affect blood sugar levels, but one of the most significant is physical activity.
For individuals who don’t have Type 1 diabetes, their body knows exactly how much sugar is needed for fuel during exercise. On the other hand, since Type 1 diabetics have little to no insulin, their body does not know how much sugar is needed, so it stays in storage. This is what causes low blood sugar.
By 2004, Don, who was in his mid-forties, was 50 pounds overweight and began having vision problems. According to him, individuals who have uncontrolled diabetes usually have eye problems that can lead to blindness.
“I spent 32 years avoiding the goblin I could see, only to be attacked by the goblin I couldn’t see,” Don said, “which was complications with my vision and consequences of bad weight control.”
He decided his best course of action was to get moving, despite his original doctor’s warning. But he knew he had to proceed with caution. When blood sugar drops low enough, it can cause loss of consciousness, seizures and – if it’s really low – death.
“Most people like me are willing to exercise but are afraid to,” Don said. “We don’t want to go to bed the next morning and not wake up. It’s very scary for somebody like me to even be willing to exercise.”
But he was up for the challenge.
Daring to Run
Armed with the necessary tools of education, his insulin and a blood sugar level monitor, Don chose to start running. After more than 10 years of training and running marathons and Ironman triathlons, Don set the record for the fastest known run across Texas in April 2019.
He completed the 850-mile journey in 27 days, eight hours and six minutes. And somewhere along the way, his running moved past hubris and became something more.
During his record-setting run across Texas, Don met Ben, a former runner whose Type 1 diabetic uncle had just died from a low blood sugar episode. Although Ben had not run in 20 years, he was inspired by Don’s accomplishments as a runner with Type 1 diabetes, and Ben ran with Don to the finish that day to honor his uncle.
“That was the first time I realized that this wasn’t just about me,” Don said. “I was passionate about running, but in many ways, there was the personal accomplishment element hovering in the back of my mind. After meeting Ben, I realized that people’s lives were being changed by seeing that running with Type 1 is possible.”
Attempting a World Record
Already credited with having the fastest known time running across Texas, Don will begin a coast-to-coast run Saturday, Feb. 1. The roughly 2,800-mile journey will take him from Newport Beach in California to Melbourne, Florida. He has estimated it to take him about 96 days, taking into account days for rest and planned stops along the way.
He will be passing through his hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, where he plans to visit with his parents and attend his high school reunion. In addition, during his coast-to-coast run, Don will attempt to be the first person — ever — to run from Disneyland to Disney World, and as a result, he will be setting a world record.
Most important to Don, though, is his mission to inform and inspire. “For people who are living with Type 1, I want them to know that if they don’t know anybody else, at least there’s one other Type 1 out there who is trying the hard thing and making it happen.
“For people who are not living with Type 1, I want them to realize that by the time I get to the East coast, I’m still going to be Type 1, because it’s not a lifestyle choice. It’s an autoimmune disorder.”
Don has been reminded of this himself once or twice. Although there have only been two close calls he has faced, they were significant enough to keep him vigilant. As long as he monitors his blood sugar during his runs, he’s learned how his body works.
Meaning, when he is on one of his typical 31-mile or more training runs along the Bluebonnet Trail in Plano, he knows at what point his blood sugar might drop and he will need to eat some sugar.
Running with Diabetes
Don’s advice for any Type 1 individuals ready to try physical activity is to tap into a community of other active Type 1 diabetics who are close to where you are in your effort.
“If you’re just getting started running, it’s better to talk to another Type 1 who is running 10Ks or half marathons than it is to talk to somebody who, for the last 27 years, has been doing Ironmans.”
However, Don is always happy to talk to people about running or Type 1 diabetes or really anything. He said one of the things people may not know about super long runs is that runners thrive on human contact. “Meeting a new person, another runner or other diabetics can make the difference between a really hard, boring day and an exciting day.”
So here’s your chance to support Don. His coast-to-coast run will bring him to the DFW area Mar. 24. You will be able to find him in the North Richardson/South Plano area running along Renner Road on the multi-use path during mid-afternoon.
“I would love for people to just come out and say ‘hi’ or run with me a little bit and tell me their stories — anything to keep me from thinking about my feet.”
Follow Don’s journey at his website below.Type 1 Determined >
Plano Magazine recommends consulting your medical doctor for advice before beginning any new exercise routine.