Monday, May 27, 2013

And here it goes: The Runs

** If you're already ready to donate, you are (one of) my hero(es). Click here. **

WHO: Me, Alison Aves, mom of two, haver of Type 1 diabetes (T1D, aka juvenile diabetes, aka insulin-dependent diabetes, aka SFD or stupid, um, freaking disease)

WHAT: Raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)

HOW: By running half-marathons*. A lot of them. Twelve over the course of a year**.

WHEN: May 2013–April 2014

WHERE: Mostly in North Carolina, although I won't rule out events more far-flung

The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. Unlike Type 2 diabetes, it is not associated with obesity or lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes or a poor diet. Susceptibility is believed to be rooted in genetics, but scientists have not nailed down the genetic abnormality nor what triggers the immune system to go haywire and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas (why do so many people develop it as children, but my body pulled the trigger at age 29? Big mystery. Why is there such a low coincidence of family members having it? Another big mystery -- no one in my family does). There is nothing I could have done to prevent myself from developing it -- and there is nothing I can do to lessen the probability that my children will develop it.

That is why I'm doing this. I'd love it if someone developed a cure, but I'm far more interested in scientists figuring out how to identify tomorrow's T1 diabetics and prevent them from developing it. I honestly cannot imagine the enormous burden on children and teenagers who have this disease, and on their parents. Once your pancreas has permanently and unapologetically excused itself from duty, managing your blood sugar requires around-the-clock vigilance 365 days a year. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) makes you feel pretty terrible in the short term and can result in seizures, coma and (inconveniently) death. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) slowly and quietly leads your body toward nerve damage (and resultant amputations), blindness, renal failure, heart disease ... and also (still inconvenient) death.

T1D cannot be managed with diet and exercise; that is why it is alternately referred to as insulin-dependent. No matter how religiously you exercise, control your diet, check your blood sugar, meticulously calibrate the amount of insulin you are taking, you are never guaranteed positive outcomes in the short or long term. This disease is deadly. Being responsible for all of that in my own body is troubling, but the specter of assuming responsibility for it in the futures of the people I love more than anything in the world is unimaginable.

1. Donate. Please, please support me by making a contribution to the JDRF on behalf of my campaign Any amount would be incredible. I expect to be doing most of my runs alone, and running 13.1 miles with only your thoughts and possibly a decent playlist to keep you company can be a trifle boring. BUT. If I am running knowing that friends, family, acquaintances, and perhaps also total strangers are behind me, that you think what I am doing is worthwhile, and that if I DON'T run I will be letting down people who coughed up actual cold, hard cash on a bet that I can do this -- I will run. I can do it. I will do it. Because I'll look like a tremendous loser if I don't.

2. Tell people you know about this crazy person who is doing this crazy thing ... Please forward my information -- a link to my donation page on the JDRF website, or a link to this extremely thin-on-content-so-far blog -- to anyone you think might possibly be interested in T1D research. Or anyone who might possibly be interested in watching a suburban, middle-aged mom of two permanently destroy her knees in that pursuit.

3. Cheer me on. I have (just barely) started this blog. It is not going to be exclusively about running or diabetes (two things I personally find uninteresting to write or read about). But I will keep it updated with information about my fundraising and about my runs, and please believe me when I say it will be of immeasurable value to me if you get on there from time to time and say "Woo woo go get 'em!" or "I'll be sleeping while you're running haha!" or "I always knew you weren't playing with a full deck!" or whatever it is you think I should hear.

4. Or join me. Running with a partner is so much more enjoyable. As I choose my events, I'll update the blog, and if you want to outfit yourself with a bib and meet me at the start of any of them I would think it was so wonderful. I don't intend to run super-fast though and if you show up for the exclusive purpose of dusting me I'll think you're kind of mean.

Ok, I have to stop writing and typing and thinking and fretting, and just post this letter and launch this idea and get going on it already. I already ran the first half-marathon on May 19; the next is in five short days. To have a prayer of reaching my fundraising goal ($10,000), I need to push off the dock. Good luck to me.

* I feel the need to provide a two-part disclaimer. The first is that as of this writing, I have already done one of the half-marathons, back on May 19. I had to do one before making my campaign official, just to make sure it wouldn't completely (or at least instantly) kill me. The second part is: If my knees or some other part of my physical being seem to be veering toward a road of permanent malfunction, I reserve the right to revise my goal. I won't do *nothing*, but I may do shorter runs (though more of them).

** See first disclaimer. If something happens (illness? injury? cancelled events?) that makes it impossible to complete all 12 runs in 12 months, I'd ask for an exception to lengthen the duration a bit.

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