At 13.1 miles, half marathons aren’t for the faint of heart—the level of time, discipline and practice it takes to adequately prepare for a run that long is a good litmus test to determine if you define yourself as a runner.
Brooke Kaplan definitively falls into that category, as she recently completed the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon on June 4, 2016. The race was held in scenic Loudoun County, about an hour away from where she lives.
After initially learning about the race through a friend, Brooke was hesitant to participate, due to the intensity of the training. But that changed when she visited the website and saw that the American Diabetes Association® was the official nonprofit partner of Destination Races. The chance to fundraise on behalf of the organization made running in the race all the more personal for Brooke, as a person with type 1 diabetes.
As a healthy college sophomore in 2007, Brooke never thought she could be at risk for diabetes. But an appointment at the health center on campus revealed a kidney infection, UTI and blood glucose level of 388. This startling news sent Brooke to the hospital, where she was later diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As a college student, Brooke was starting to buy and cook food for herself for the first time, and she suddenly felt “more mature and mindful of [her] food and body than most” because she had to keep blood sugars in check.
But the disease hasn’t slowed her down—as proven by her participation in Destination Races. Even prior to the race, Brooke was active, taking Zumba classes and weightlifting. The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon was not only her first-ever half marathon, but her first run longer than a 5K. She entered into what she called a “tough” training plan, running one to three times a week, in addition to her normal exercise routine. The running intensified, too, as she added an additional mile to her run with each week leading up to the event.
Brooke was concerned about making sure her blood sugar levels during the race—during her 8- and 11-mile training runs, her blood sugar had dropped, but she didn’t realize until after the fact—but that didn’t stop her from completing it. Quick checks pre-and post-race showed that her levels stayed within the normal range. Yet even if they hadn’t, Brooke’s supportive husband was waiting for her at the finish line, ready with trail mix from the American Diabetes Association tent to make sure she’d be okay.
Brooke’s story served as the foundation for her fundraising: Using both social media and email, she shared her experiences with friends, family and Zumba classes up until race day. She spoke directly about the symptoms, complications and dangers of the disease that impacts her daily life. Brooke believes that telling a real story and educating others, over asking directly for donations, was the key factor in how she was able to raise nearly $2,500!
As for her experience during the race, Brooke says that running a half marathon was never something that she’d considered doing before, but the donations pushed her to persevere. The end of the race was breathtaking – quite literally, as she struggled for breath crossing the finish line.
But overall, Brooke said she and her fellow runners felt a “huge sense of accomplishment. It was a really tough challenge, but I’m really happy I did it.” The fact that she completed the race with diabetes “made the sense of accomplishment all the better.” That happiness is sincere, as she hopes to sign up for another race soon.
We thank Brooke for the blood, sweat, tears and hard work she’s put in on behalf of the American Diabetes Association.