40 Races for ADA's Team Diabetes
Lizi Sukowatey will participate in 40 races the year after turning 40.
At the dinner table last fall, Lizi Sukowatey talked to her family about what she should do to celebrate her 40th birthday in March. Take a cruise, her relatives suggested. But Sukowatey decided she'd prefer to mark the occasion with a bit more of a challenge: competing in 40 races—ranging from 5-kilometer runs to triathlons—before she turns 41.
A longtime runner and all-around athlete who was a gymnast and figure skater in high school, Sukowatey had more than her birthday on her mind: She was also thinking about how she could support people who, like her, have diabetes. Diagnosed with type 1 at age 18, she knows what it is like to struggle with managing blood glucose while engaging in high-energy endurance sports. Sukowatey decided that her endeavor, which she has dubbed "Forty 4 Forty," should benefit the American Diabetes Association, so she signed up to be a part of Team Diabetes.
ADA's Team Diabetes is a new program for people who want to raise money for the Association at athletic events of their choice. While thousands of volunteers and fund-raisers participate in ADA's signature events Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes and Tour de Cure, Team Diabetes opens up an avenue for raising awareness—and cash—elsewhere, at half marathons, marathons, triathlons, and more.
Sukowatey says she has racked up more than just miles on her running shoes. She has been able to support other charities by registering for their races while at the same time fund-raising for ADA and spreading the word about diabetes to people at those events and beyond.
"I had a friend at work the other day who had been nervous to ask about it. She just sat down and started asking me questions about diabetes," Sukowatey says. "[My racing has] opened some doors for people to talk to me about it."
Sukowatey says that running for people with diabetes is more satisfying and motivational than just running for herself. And the Team Diabetes system makes her fund-raising task easy. ADA sets up a webpage for each Team Diabetes participant and collects all donations, whether online or by mail. "I love it because I'm not touching the money at all," she says.
Sukowatey sticks to an intensive training regimen. She runs regularly, participates in an exercise "boot camp," and mixes in strength training, swimming, and cycling.
She says she used to struggle with keeping her blood glucose and weight consistent through all the running. And she learned how to swim two years ago and is gradually finding out how that exercise affects her blood glucose. Sukowatey's formula for successfully managing her diabetes includes tracking her workouts and meals; testing her blood glucose often (typically two to six times during a race); using a continuous glucose monitor during long events; and carrying fruit chews and caramels to ward off low blood glucose if needed.
"I've never really been angry with my diabetes," Sukowatey says. "I just kind of partner with it and think, if this is what my body needs, this is what my body needs right now."
To register for ADA's Team Diabetes, visit diabetes.org/teamdiabetes.