10-Year-Old Runner Goes the Distance
When Wibb Marzilli races past his competitors, he wows them with his speed. But when the 10-year-old from Washington, D.C., takes out his blood glucose meter to test after races, he really surprises people.
"Most people think that diabetics are, like, people who are sort of disabled," Wibb says. "So it's like if a diabetic is doing a lot better than other people, they would be shocked. It makes me feel good now that they know the truth."
Wibb has become a seasoned distance runner, training on the National Mall with his dad and with his elementary school cross-country and track teams. This spring, he won the D.C. Public Schools track-and-field championship 1,600-meter race and anchored the winning 4 × 400-meter relay team.
A fourth grader, Wibb was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 2 years old. He is the only student in his class with diabetes. He first met other kids with diabetes when he went to an American Diabetes Association Diabetes Camp, Camp Sugarfalls in Alabama. Since then, he's opened up about his management, explaining it to fellow runners and giving presentations about diabetes to his classmates.
It was running, he says, that helped him learn to manage diabetes even better. "You have to train hard to do it. It's not simple," he says of his distance running. Wibb tests his blood glucose before every run and aims to start competing at about 200 mg/dl. Because he runs longer races, he'll burn through a lot of glucose.
Sometimes he goes low, so it's important, he says, for athletes with diabetes to recognize warning signs. "If you have blurry vision, you should stop running for a while, and if you don't feel very well, you should stop, even though you might be in the middle of your run," Wibb says. "Even though I'm really competitive, your health should come first. It's not like you should die for a race. It would be better to stay alive and lose a race."
Wibb's father, Alan Marzilli, says he's glad his son can challenge common myths about diabetes. Recalling one race, Marzilli says: "Right after he ran, he pulled out his meter. Everyone around was impressed. That really, I think, changed their opinion." To learn more about ADA Diabetes Camps, visit diabetes.org/camp.