5/30/2013
On the Run with Stephen England
Athlete Defies the Odds

Since we last left runner Stephen England he has added at least a dozen races—including two, 50-mile ultra-marathons—to his already impressive running resume.  A proud Team Novo Nordisk runner (comprised of 22 elite athletes from around the country who all have type 1 diabetes), Stephen is also a prolific blogger who chronicles each of his races with words and pictures on www.rundiabetes.com.

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Here is what he wrote after April 15, 2013, the Boston Marathon, where he finished over an hour before the bombing: 

“My perspective on running has changed slightly. Running is simply play. It is no more. It is still a way to express ourselves. An art form to some, a science to others. People run for others, for themselves, for charities, for health, for depression, for happiness. This will not change. I will only continue. The people behind this attack on our running community did not think about this. Our weapons are our hearts, something clearly lacking from them.”

A general contractor by day (he is a director at Capital Craftsmen in New York City), Stephen trains six days a week, and is becoming somewhat of a role model to a growing group of people who would like to incorporate running into life with diabetes—or, as it was in his case, need to incorporate diabetes into an already athletic lifestyle. 

“I didn’t necessarily want to be that person for a long time" said Stephen, “I really am a fairly modest person. My friends persuaded me to tell my story. They said, ‘You run fast. You have type 1 diabetes. That’s an inspiring story. You should share it with everyone.’”

Stephen, 33, grew up sporty, mainly running and playing soccer in the county of Surrey, England, outside of London. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 14-years-old, “more than half a lifetime ago,” he says, and stopped racing in his late teens. He became inspired again to run in 2007 while watching the New York City Marathon. It was the year after he moved to New York.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. For one thing, when you do extreme sports with diabetes, there are more variables that can affect your blood sugar during the activity and after it has ended, says Stephen’s nurse at the Berrie Center, Emily Coppedge, BSN and diabetes educator. “Athletes often need higher-than-normal blood glucose levels to begin exercise and are fueling consistently during the activity. The adrenaline from long-distance sports can also cause high blood-glucose levels immediately post-exercise, but lower levels later in the day. Frequent blood-sugar checking is essential during the activity, and it often takes athletes more than one race to fine-tune their diabetes regimen.”

Stephen says that until he found his team at the Berrie Center, he had to support his athletic lifestyle solo. “They (other doctors) made me feel as if I would have better control if I just had a simpler life, with less running,” he said. “It wasn't realistic and, quite frankly, it was frustrating to hear. When I saw Dr. Goland and her team at the Berrie Center, it was clear that they had experience working with diabetic athletes and that they truly cared about me.

"It has taken many years and quite a few trial and errors to be able to run as much as I do over long distances and combine that with being healthy with my diabetes. I think of newly diagnosed youngsters having a hard time with this change and I want them to know they can overcome diabetes. It just takes some time and determination.”

He is looking forward to his next major race on June 29 in California—the Western States Endurance Run, the world’s oldest 100-mile foot race. “I’m proud to have type 1 diabetes,” Stephen says. “I want to show people that you can do whatever you want to and have [this condition]. Whatever you are passionate about, go after it and achieve it.”

To learn more about the Berrie Center's active lifestyle events, contact Troy Finn at 917-484-0090. 

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