I’m well overdue a post, given that in the last number of months with DiAthlete I’ve operated a successful Eastern European tour – which got approx 700 people out running with me whilst reaching type 1 diabetes communities in Budapest, Belgrade, Sofia and Zagreb – I enjoyed the hospitality of my friends in Costa Rica whilst putting on a run event in San Jose, which also had a great turn out and media coverage on TV for the Dia Vida diabetes association; I had the pleasure of speaking at the FFL Children With Diabetes Conference in Orlando, and just the other day I returned home from my latest adventure in Iceland on the Sanofi and Sweet e.V supported World Diabetes Tour ‘T1D Hekla Challenge,’ where I played a Young Leader role in mentoring a group of adolescents living with type 1 diabetes, from many locations worldwide, in hiking over 100km around the tough but amazing volcanic landscapes!
Well overdue a post but quite frankly I haven’t had the bloody time! Given that tomorrow I set off for Pembrokeshire in Wales, this will just be brief too! But I promise to be more active here soon on these recent adventures…
I wish to share with you some lessons I’ve learned of late, which in regards towards life with a daily health condition (something that is so crucial in making the efforts to manage) I feel are very relevant in finding that right, motivated attitude.
I’ll begin with one of the things I get up to on my side job as a London Tour Guide. Every work day I brush shoulders in the West End with the richest of the rich, in fact I passed right by business tycoon Alan Sugar just yesterday (the day after I had returned from Iceland and straight back into work!) who had a wonderfully, grumpy look on his face! And whilst these business leaders each dress in the finest suits and ties and return home probably to a rather luxurious Georgian mansion, I brush their shoulders dressed in a ridiculous looking Gryffindor-esque guide’s outfit, not remotely acknowledged when at work. It is indeed a strange paradox to go from one moment being this adventurous action figure, out in an interesting place of the world, to returning to reality as a local peasant. However, I enjoy what I do. I know I need to save money to get to where I need to be, more so for the cause I stand for, so I am always prepared to put in the hours I can. And I do this whilst giving tours that consist of joke after joke after joke. An element of British pride about my City, which is mine, and a great deal of knowledge of its history – if not I have great blagging abilities. One thing is for sure from my experiences of doing this job, and I am pleased to say has been recognised by professional friends I admire in my cause such as Scott Johnson and Douglas Cairns, the job of speaking for hours and hours each day has seemingly propelled my ability as a public speaker to the highest level. In general people tend to have great struggles in understanding my day-to-day talk; I am a proud, slang Saffff-London-boy! But in the professional world, on an international stage, there comes a duty to get my voice understood because the message it contains from the global experiences I have taken on are crucial. And I nail it when it matters!
The reason I bring my side job up is because of one of the positive things I started doing after work, which has given me a great lesson on the unknown meaning of life to an extent. After work on my way home to the train station, either London Victoria or Charing Cross, if I have been lucky enough to have received any tips I’ll use it to purchase a hot chocolate with cream at the end of the day. Now, I know, you might be thinking hang on you’re meant to be a fit, crazy endurance runner, sort it out! You also have type 1 diabetes and need to look after yourself and not just pick at things unnecessarily. If you just thought that you are right, but you are also a bit too serious in life so this is a problem, you sort it out… Indeed I do feel at this moment I need to put more work in to regain that level of fitness I’ve previously achieved and as a result keep the blood glucose control going as strong as I can. However, in this Hot Chocolate instance, I am not the one consuming the ingredients. Perhaps this makes me now sound even worse, or more so stupid. Stupid is what stupid does. The Hot Chocolate goes to a homeless person on the way home, usually not the person begging too eagerly and in some cases demandingly either, unless they have a bit of charisma about them. I opt for those in quieter areas, such as at the back of Charing Cross near the Embankment but off of the main street. Earlier it was this lady and her eyes lit up when I told her I didn’t have change but had a hot choccy with cream instead.
What I learned from the homeless, who are generally homeless and did not take to the streets out of choice (as some sadly do in Green Park), is the same thing I see sometimes in people with type 1 diabetes, they can lack a bit of direction. What we all need is some form of leadership and encouragement, an act of kindness or a gesture of positivity. That is it. It is like a Premier League Striker in football, they can lose form just like that – no matter the ridiculous price-tag to their name – the way to find form again is to score a goal, to start believing in yourself and it comes. I know this from personal experience too, as someone who has been through some tough physical challenges: what it all comes down to is what you have on the inside. If you can find that balance of having the mental strength – being in the right place in the mind – with the heart to follow your passions and dreams, anything becomes a possibility.
Those on the streets have it incredibly hard and you can in many of them see how their spirits are down. Mentally the key would be to find a way over that and not give up in order to get back on track, full credit to the Big Issue guys who take the first step in doing that. There’s an absolute gentleman on Piccadilly who always wishes me a good day even when I never buy his magazine, but I often have a chat on my way to work. I taught him a knock-knock joke once, “whose there?” “biggish,” “biggish, who?!”
For us living with diabetes I know this is a weird comparison but I feel the slightest thing can make the biggest difference. I can recall those days of being in a dark place with my condition, school was the toughest in terms of accepting the condition, and adolescent years was hardest for control with the irresponsibilities I occasionally had, even despite being an advocate from a young age. Nobody gets it right all the time, even myself. On the Iceland adventure I witnessed something quite amazing though, where I saw this group who were teenaged / very early twenties come together, having never met each other before, to be best friends and a solid team for the week. They come from different cultures and lifestyles, but it simply did not matter, what mattered was they each lived with type 1 diabetes and through it found a positive in each other. Maybe they viewed this experience, which they were of course very fortunate to have had, as a once in a life-time opportunity, and in some ways it was – I highly doubt we will each be hiking in Iceland again any time soon with such an experience – but what I saw was the start of something for them. These guys can grow to become global leaders in this cause for the right reasons in the future, and the sky is not even the limit on how much they can achieve for others living with diabetes. They had a positive experience, a taste for meeting others living with diabetes and furthermore a taste for accomplishment in the cause by completing the challenge.
Personally I’ve been there myself, that 29 mile run in Thanet at the age of 17 was the start of everything for me, putting my life in the path it was meant to be on for this cause – and I had no idea any of the experiences I have had in this world was to follow, the good and the bad (and the bad is always a good too as you have something to learn from). I turn 25 next week. There’s much more to come.
As I tweeted earlier, I believe its essential we encourage and empower the next generations growing up with type 1 diabetes to find their fire. They can make anything happen. That’s what I’ll make sure DiAthlete prioritises! Right, now off to Wales for the next event…
(alright, sometimes I am not the best role model…)