When Marathoner and Podder Matt Patrick approaches the start line in Hopkinton MA on April 16th, it will be his 14th time running the Boston Marathon as a qualifier, with dozens more marathons and longer distance races under his belt. With so much experience, he’s the kind of athlete that makes this world-famous marathon look easy. But there was a time when even short training runs were impossible, even for this seasoned long-distance runner.
In January 2008, Matt was training for his eighth Boston Marathon in Manhattan, where he lived at the time. He was much leaner than usual, which isn’t normal in the northeast in winter. And despite his lighter weight, he couldn’t finish his workouts.
“If I was supposed to do six, I’d do three,” he said, remembering how awful he felt during the run. “I had never quit on a workout back then.”
Matt continued to train, but couldn’t recover as easily and was drinking a lot of water. He didn’t feel well when he exercised, but could temporarily recover by eating or drinking carbs. Still, he continued to lose weight and he was waking up four or five times per night to use the bathroom.
“My wife said, ‘Something’s wrong,’ and pleaded with me to see a doctor,” Matt recalled.
Something was in fact wrong. In March, Matt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 37, and immediately began an insulin regimen of Lantus and Humalog injections.
Adjusting to Life as an Athlete with T1D
Patrick didn’t let his recent diabetes diagnosis derail his training. But despite the fact that he was now taking insulin, he still felt awful. His endocrinologist had never factored in his fitness regimen when he ordered him to take 15 units of Lantus daily. Matt was hypoglycemic much of the time, but didn’t know why.
Lucky for Matt, a running friend suggested he talk to another athlete he knew with type 1 diabetes, Ryan. That connection changed Matt’s life as a runner and as a person with type 1 diabetes (T1D) forever. Ryan was a professional triathlete who trained with a team of athletes also living with T1D and he invited Matt to join them.
“He said, ‘I’m on a team – we run, do triathlons, cycle – and everyone is Type 1. Oh, and by the way, check with your Endo, but 15 units of Lantus might be way too much.’ ”
Matt said he never realized that his insulin requirements may be different from the average person – that it was a trial and error kind of thing. He began to cut back on his Lantus, and immediately noticed a difference. He felt better and ran faster than before his diagnosis, completing the NYC Marathon in November.
“Everything seemed to click,” he said. “This team of guys completely saved me.”
Finding a T1D Running Community
Matt is a long-time athlete on Diabetes Sports Project (DSP), a non-profit made up of T1D athletes from around the world. They use their athletic accomplishments, such as qualifying for the Ironman World Championship, climbing Mt Everest, winning a SUP World Championship, playing collegiate and youth sports, teaching yoga, and accomplishing various other athletic goals, to have a positive impact on the T1D community. Matt and other DSP members speak at children’s hospitals and industry events, helping to spread inspiration, raise awareness and educate those affected.
Matt has continued to race and train since his diagnosis including various marathons, 50Ks, 100Ks and a 2011 trans-continental run (CA to NY) in 16 days with 9 other T1D athletes. The support and advice he gets from DSP, both from a diabetes management perspective and in reaching his fitness goals, has been invaluable. He says that if some of them can do Ironman triathlons in nine or ten hours with T1D, he is going to listen to them.
“I trust them,” he says. “It’s a huge comfort to train with people who understand. Nothing is easy, but the knowledge and inspiration I get from the DSP team members makes it easier.”
The Omnipod System Provides More Freedom While Training
In 2012, after four years on Multiple Daily Injections (MDI), Matt decided to give the Omnipod System a try when another athlete on the DSP team recommended it. He loves the flexibility it offers, including turning down his basal rates, leaving the PDM at home when he is running short distances, carrying it in his vest when he runs long, and swimming* with his daughters, age 12 and 15.
“When I was on injections and using Lantus, sometimes I’d be stuck for 24 hours, waiting through lows, eating things I didn’t want to eat,” says Matt. “The Pod is much more useful and makes more sense. The flexibility it offers is light years better.”
Matt says in addition to turning down his basal when he runs, he loves the flexibility to suspend insulin delivery after a long or hard race, when he is particularly sensitive to insulin.
Sharing His Story with Other T1D Athletes and Families
It’s hard to tell what Matt is more passionate about: running, his team of T1D athletes, or the Omnipod System. But one thing is clear – he is grateful for the support of others in his T1D journey, and loves to give back to others seeking knowledge. Matt has spoken publicly about his experiences at diabetes camps and events, teaching others about the benefits of managing diabetes with the Omnipod System and offering advice to families and athletes living with T1D.
“I’m grateful that as a Diabetic athlete, I’m in a position to pass along the knowledge and inspiration I get from the DSP team members,” he says. “I tell people, you can achieve all that you want, all that you thought maybe you couldn’t do, if you have the information and support from others who understand.”
We’ll be cheering for Matt when he toes the line in Boston April 16th! Run, Matt, Run!
*The Pod has an IPX8 waterproof rating of up to 25 feet for 60 minutes. The PDM is not waterproof.