Finishing a long-distance race takes a lot of strength and perseverance while you push your body to its limits. As you run mile after mile, your lungs start to burn, you feel a deep ache in your leg muscles, your breath becomes difficult to catch and you start to wonder if your body is going to betray you. Imagine adding a health condition to that equation. Even though Vincent Myers (Alpha Epsilon Chapter ‘99) has Type 1 Diabetes, he doesn’t let it keep him from crossing the finish line.
When Myers lost thirty pounds in three months, he knew that something was not right. “I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in December 2004. I presented every symptom in the book - rapid weight loss, loss of vision, frequent urination and excessive thirst,” explains Myers. Type 1 Diabetes is a condition where the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas, the part of the body with insulin-producing cells that allow glucose to turn into energy. Without insulin, the body’s cells can starve from lack of glucose and, if left untreated, can damage eyes, kidneys, nerves and the heart.
“I dropped into a depressed state and thought my life was over... I felt alone and lost every sense of hope in life.” Myers, who now works as the Principal of West End Elementary School in Woodbury, New Jersey, had to learn to live life with his diagnosis. As he began to control his diabetes, he found a new passion in running. “I started running five years ago as I hoped to get on track and healthy for my kids,” said Myers, who is a father of two. At first, he could barely make it to the end of the block. However, through disciplined training, Myers is now able to compete in races and marathons across the country. Most notably, the Medtronic TC 10 Mile.
Medtronic is among the world’s largest medical technology, services and solutions companies. Though they are headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, they have a global mindset as they look to collaborate with stakeholders around the world to take healthcare further. One program they use to do that is their Global Champions program. Jeff Trauring, a spokesman for Medtronic, explains that the program “recognizes athletes from around the world who have overcome medical conditions and have returned to an active life with the help of medical technology or solutions. These medical conditions may include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, chronic pain, neurological disorders, obesity or gastrointestinal and urological disorders. The Global Champions program exists to provide these individuals with a platform to share their inspirational stories with others.”
Medtronic teams up with Twin Cities in Motion to organize the race and select the Global Champions. “The selection process was highly competitive, with applicants from around the world,” explained Trauring. Myers was nominated by a student who he had once assisted in a race, and was chosen to be one of twenty runners from around the world. Trauring went on to say, “we look for grit, determination and a positive spirit. As an elementary school principal, Vincent inspires and offers a positive message to his students that, with the right mindset, anything is possible. We were thrilled to have Vincent as a member of our Global Champions program.” Myers said, “It’s an awesome feeling to be recognized. To know I was able to turn the feeling of despair into something so motivating and inspiring proved that mindset is everything.”
This year’s Global Champions team included runners from five continents and 13 different countries. Ten members of the team were selected to run the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, while 10 were selected to run the Medtronic TC 10 Mile race; Myers being selected to run the latter. “Training for races is ongoing,” explains Myers. “I run about 30-35 miles a week individually and with two fantastic run groups.” One of those groups is Life Time Run where Myers serves as a Run Lead as he supports other runners in reaching their goals.
Myers met the Global Champions in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota for the race weekend, September 29 through October 1, 2017. The weekend included a tour of the Medtronic Operational Headquarters, located in Minneapolis, and many opportunities for the team to connect and bond. “Hearing the other stories was so inspiring,” said Myers. “None of us ever gave up even during our darkest moments. I was able to connect with others around the globe who were as equally inspired by me as I was of them.”
The weekend ended with the races on October 1, where the Global Champions were just 20 of 10,426 finishers. “I contemplated a race strategy,” explains Myers. “Take it all in? Go all out? I didn’t know.” Before the start, he took out his phone to go live on Facebook and share the experience with friends and family back home. Myers said he was overcome with emotion when he gave a shout-out to his kids. “They are my why. I do this for them. I need to be here for them.” When Myers crossed the start line to begin his ten mile adventure, he did the best thing he could do, “I did me. I ran the race while taking it all in.”
Myers finished the ten miles at a pace of 7:36 and a finish time of one hour and 16 minutes. As if being able to participate in this special event wasn’t enough, Myers had another reason to celebrate as he beat his personal record by over five minutes for a ten mile race. “Any personal goal is possible with the right focus,” says Myers. “This wasn’t about Type 1 Diabetes. This was about life. I am living proof in my life that when you get knocked down, get right back up, dust yourself off and go get the next goal.”
So what’s next for Myers? Myers will continue his mission of improving humanity through running. He ran two half marathons before the end of 2017, including the Philadelphia Half Marathon, and 2018 will lead him to his second full marathon. “I hope to continue to inspire those who think they can’t,” he said. “Through running I hope to spread the message of hope, not just to those with ailments, but in every facet of life. Nothing should hold you back from reaching your goals.”
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