Marathon Training Gives Diabetic Runner Confidence to Push Body Further

Mary Lucas hated running growing up. She’d barely do one lap around the track during gym class then would walk the rest of the way.

Today, Lucas can’t get enough of lacing up her sneakers and hitting the pavement, trail, grass or whatever surface she takes to. The 26-year-old is running her first marathon—the New York City Marathon—on Nov. 5 as part of Beyond Type Run, a team representing Beyond Type 1.

“I heard we were going to have a charity team in the NYC Marathon and I thought, ‘Yes, I can do this; I want to do this,’” Lucas said. “I had this mental shift in my head that I needed to be a runner. I wanted to accomplish something really cool and crazy I had never done before.”

Begun in 2015, Beyond Type 1 is a non-profit organization founded by singer/actor Nick Jonas, Sarah Lucas (Mary’s mother), Juliet de Baubigny, and celebrity chef Sam Talbot, which leverages the power of social media and technology in an effort to educate, empower, and change what it means to live with Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin, an instrumental hormone that helps transport glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells. Only five percent of people with diabetes have Type 1.

Mary Lucas has documented her marathon training on her Instagram page | Courtesy of Mary Lucas
Mary Lucas has documented her marathon training on her Instagram page | Courtesy of Mary Lucas

Mary Lucas was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes with she was seven years old. She was active with sports through high school — swimming, water polo, and dance — but there were times she had to sit out of a certain drill or take an extended break if her blood sugar level was too low. She missed her eighth grade dance recital because she had to be taken to the hospital due to a dangerously low blood sugar level.

Lucas has used those moments as motivation for herself and others dealing with diabetes. She wants to be a role model for anyone afflicted with the condition, the way Robin Arzon has been to her. Arzon, a former corporate litigator turned fitness guru/runner, also has Type 1 diabetes.

“I want to set a good example by helping kids and teenagers like she has,” said Lucas, community partners and programs manager at Beyond Type 1. “I want to help them out and show them they’re not alone, so I want to try to be there and support other people now.”

Training for the marathon has completely changed Lucas’s outlook on a lot of things, especially her diabetes and her body’s capabilities. It’s given her patience since she began her training as the ultimate novice runner. She listens to her body more, whether it’s related to diet, glucose or injury. She is more confident. She’s less stressed.

“It has been absolutely incredible,” Lucas said. “Marathon training has changed my body and mind in so many ways for the better.”

Lucas wears an insulin pump and has a continuous glucose monitor that reads her blood sugar level every five minutes. It’s a way of life she’s been accustomed to for nearly 19 years.

Mary Lucas wears a glucose monitor that checks her blood sugar every five minutes | Courtesy of Mary Lucas
Mary Lucas wears a glucose monitor that checks her blood sugar every five minutes | Courtesy of Mary Lucas

To think that on November 17, 1998, she was diagnosed with diabetes and on November 5, 2017, she’ll be running 26.2 miles in the New York City Marathon is an astonishing feat for her. In fact, it’s only the next step. Lucas plans to run more marathons and half marathons. The next big challenges in her sights are completing a marathon on every continent and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro by 2020.

“Now that I’ve pushed my body to do something I never thought I could do, it’s opened up new possibilities for me,” she said. “I love running now and don’t plan on giving it up.”

NOTE: First appeared on Culture Trip

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