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On Being An Athlete.

If this was college, and it was the night before the paper was due, I’d grab a dictionary and start feverishly typing the following:  “Webster’s dictionary defines ‘athlete’ as ‘a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.  Middle English, from Latin athleta, from Greek athlētēs, from athlein to contend for a prize, from athlon prize, contest.”

(Let’s pretend it’s college, because I like that opener.)

Athletes, and the definition of who or what an athlete is has been on my mind for the last few days, especially after serving as co-host for the Insulindependence Greatest Awards Show in DiabetesSebastien Sasseville and I had the honor (and the fun experience) of MC’ing the awards show from the House of Blues in San Diego on Saturday night.  The greatest honor that night, for me, was being able to announce Scott Johnson as the winner of this year’s Athletic Achievement Award, voted for by members of the diabetes community.   Scott, for me, is the EWD (Everyman With Diabetes).  His good days are good.  His tough days are combination of frustration and exhaustion.  But he keeps pushing, and keeps trying, and his daily journey is our daily journey, as people with diabetes.  He keeps his eye on the prize:  health.

That’s the part of the definition of “athlete” that really resonates for me, the etymology of the word.  “To contend for a prize.”

That is what I strive for, as a person with diabetes – the prize of a life that, whether hard-earned or thankfully easy, is healthy, fun, and worthwhile.  So many of us may never achieve, or want to achieve, the prize of being a world-class athlete, but every single one of us can be inspired to exercise and be healthy.  You don’t have to go up Everest (even though – good for you, crazy Seb), but you do have to move.  Go for a walk.  Dance in your kitchen.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.  MOVE YOUR BODY, even if you’re intimidated.

Be an athlete in pursuit of the prize of life.  We can all be that athlete.

Sounds a little cheesy?  Yes, indeed – straight-up gouda.  But sometimes the simplest things are what can make the biggest difference.  For the last few weeks, I’ve had trouble fitting regular exercise into the mix (more on that later), and I’m feeling the effects of being so dormant.  My blood sugars are harder to control, my body feels tired, and my brain feels slower on the uptake than usual.  Exercise might not be as  crucial a component in my diabetes toolbox as insulin, but it’s up there.  Tapping my inner athlete helps keep me healthy.  And seeing people in this community who are doing impressive things, great things, and consistent things motivates the hell out of me.

Congrats to Scott, and all of the other nominees and winners on Saturday night, for inspiring people with diabetes to remain in hot pursuit of that prize.

George Simmons, me, the little piece of fake bread that Birdy asked me to bring on my trip, and WINNAH Scott K. Johnson

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dan #

    Hi Kerri,
    A great article. We as diabetics are running a marathon…..a very long race.
    It is a challenge to say on the path. The rabbits will stop and relax. It was
    the determined turtle that won the race. It is not how we start. It is how we endure the trials of the race and finish the race.
    As always have a great day.

    08/19/13; 10:39 am
    • ria #

      turtles sometimes out live rabbits by about 50 or more years !…=)

      08/19/13; 1:47 pm
    • Everyone who participated was a winner.
      Scott did not win because he was a “determined turtle” winning out over rabbits who have stopped to relax.
      There are a lot of ways to look at how this played out. There is a great message which can be given to the diabetes community at large from the fact that Scott Johnson won this award.
      It should not take away from others who were in the contest. If you knew anything about them, you would not imply such a thing. The finalists and several of the contestants were people who have done tremendously difficult things and plan to do more in the future.
      And the things they’ve done have not been just for themselves, but for all of us dealing with the disease.
      They know as much as anyone that diabetes is a lifelong ultramarathon that does not pause and does not end.
      I could start to go through their accomplishments, but I encourage anyone who hasn’t already to go and watch the videos.
      Having spent the weekend with these people, I know they have more plans for the future.
      Steve Richert will finish his documentary and use it to continue evangelizing climbing and a healthy, active life for diabetics and others, and he’ll start another equally challenging and inspiring project.
      Greg Florian will continue to work with Insulindependence and kids with diabetes and to do inspiring things on his own in sports and outdoor life.
      Chloe Vance will continue growing Connected in Motion, an organization improving lives just as Insulindepence does.
      Doug Masiuk, who ran across the United States last year promoting fitness for people with diabetes, is planning to continue to inspire us by covering the Appalachian Trail in the minimum possible time.
      Bill Carlson is trying to gather a group of diabetic athletes to go to South Africa to compete in the Comrades Marathon, the world’s largest and most prestigious ultramarathon.
      I don’t know everyone who entered. so I’ll leave off there.
      Suffice it to say that Scott did not outlast his competition.
      Give him credit for winning, but he won for other reasons.

      08/19/13; 2:05 pm
      • I agree that everyone was a winner, and thanks for highlighting some of the (many) amazing accomplishments of the contest participants. I don’t want to host any statements that could be read, or misread, as disparaging about any of these folks, so please keep it cool. 🙂

        08/19/13; 2:26 pm
      • ria #

        I certainly did not mean to offend Anyone by my comment (s)
        I admire ALL of the people who entered the contest.
        Scott was just someone who I personally could connect with.

        08/19/13; 2:29 pm
    • Dan #

      Hi Kerri,

      The race of the rabbit and the turtle is a parable.
      Diabetes is a 24/7 challenge with no vacations. It was the continual determination of the turtle which paid off with a victory. Diabetes is a balancing act between our insulin, exercise and diet. The Joslin Diabetes Center, JDC, started with an award for individuals with 25 years of success living with diabetes. Next, JDC added a 50 year award. It was followed with a 75 year award. On Friday, May17, 2013, Joslin Awarded the first 80-year Medal to Spencer Wallace. The race is a marathon and we could do well to remember that each an every step can lead to the living a “normal” life.

      As always have a great day.


      08/19/13; 6:35 pm
      • Dan,
        The parable of the tortoise and the hare implies that there were hares this tortoise beat on the way to victory.
        That’s wrong.
        Everyone in this particular race exemplified the tortoise in its ability to keep going and going. There is no finish line, and they have not stopped.
        And most of the contestants, rather than aspiring to live normal lives, are living extraordinary lives.

        08/20/13; 5:13 pm
        • Thanks Kerri for the very thoughtful blog, and thanks Jerry for keeping perspective. Scott deservedly won that award, but let’s not diminish the feats of the other nominees. Admittedly I don’t know Scott, while several of the other nominees are friends, but I respect what Scott winning this award stands for. Let’s continue to honor ALL of the amazing people that were involved!

          08/21/13; 5:13 pm
  2. ria #

    hope you all had a wonderful time !!!!
    yey, Scott !…..=)

    08/19/13; 11:53 am
  3. Terra Hillyer #

    Kerri – my daughter LOVED the picture of your shoes and I am so glad you posted this picture because she was VERY upset with me for not getting a photo of your dress. : )

    08/19/13; 1:32 pm
  4. Couldn’t agree more with this statement! “And seeing people in this community who are doing impressive things, great things, and consistent things motivates the hell out of me.” You motivate me Kerri!!

    08/19/13; 2:11 pm
  5. June S. #

    I always did poorly in gym when I was a kid. Dreaded the class, and usually got a “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory.” I even had the luck of attending an undergraduate institute wherein P.E. was required every semester except the last one of senior year, due to student teaching. I never got an “A” in gym in college, either. I took synchronized swimming, which cracks me up now, since I am legally blind without contacts or glasses, and of course I wore neither during synchronized swimming. I didn’t even have a blood glucose meter, since they hadn’t been invented yet (nor had the Americans with Disabilities Act!) All that aside, I spend more time at the gym now than most of my more athletic friends ever do. Exercise benefits my body so positively, in terms of my Type I diabetes, that I plan to exercise daily for as many years as my body will allow!

    08/19/13; 4:51 pm
  6. One of the saddest aspects of getting a neuromuscular disease is losing the ability to move my body. I remember what it felt like to move freely, fluidly, to exercise, to play soccer, to run like the wind, to ride my bike. I remember. But my body doesn’t move. I am encased in invisible tar.

    Diabetes demands I exercise. Disability evaporated my ability to move. Before the starting pistol even sounds, I have already lost the race.

    So, I need partners. Someone who will run the race while I cheer them on. When you walk, run, ride a bike, play basketball, dance, and move, remember I am cheering you on. Enjoy moving your body. It is a gift you have, a treasure more valuable than you realize. Next time you choose to exercise, pause and remember not everyone has a body that moves. Pause and take me with you in spirit. I can’t run with you, but I am cheering you on.

    08/19/13; 11:46 pm
    • June S. #

      Dear Marie,

      I read your post, and will think of you when I exercise! Here we Type I’s who CAN move are complaining about the things we need to do to care for our diabetes and to keep our blood glucose levels, and you have to live with both Type I and a neuromuscular disease that keeps you from being able to move. This is the sort of thing I don’t understand – why life can be so easy for some people (even if they don’t appreciate it) and so much more difficult for others. I really feel for you, and will keep you in my prayers.


      08/21/13; 9:06 am
      • Thanks for adding this, June. I agree – Marie, I’ll have you in my thoughts, as well. I only live with diabetes, and I can’t imagine the emotional and physical strain of another condition.

        08/21/13; 11:22 am
  7. Thanks for the motivating push 🙂 I might dance a little in my kitchen tonight haha. Congrats to Scott as well-wll deserved!

    08/22/13; 5:15 pm
  8. Very inspiring post. Thanks for sharing.

    09/17/13; 4:50 am

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