The first time Gavin Griffiths ran a marathon to raise money for his local diabetes clinic, the local newspaper reporter told him, “you’re plucky, but you don’t stand a chance.”
Spurred by the words of anti-inspiration, Griffiths – nicknamed the Diathlete, a superhero moniker for a tough endurance athlete – ended up running the 29-mile coastal race in England’s county of Kent in just a minute over 3 hours. In doing so, he found a love for running. In early September he went to New York City and surrounding communities, where he ran seven marathons in seven days to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes.
Griffiths had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8, and although his doctors never directly told the avid football player (that’s soccer to us Yanks) he couldn’t do sports, he was warned that his favorite activities would affect him.
“I feared that at first,” he said, but the football field was like a siren song, and soon he found himself back on the field, and eventually running that fund-raising marathon in Kent.
“You can have diabetes but you can keep control and you can do anything,” said Griffiths, who after that first marathon began setting challenges for himself, going bigger with each until the 23-year-old London native chose his 7-in-7 marathon challenge in NYC.
“I kept it really slow, so my stamina was there,” he said in a telephone interview after his seven-day adventure, which kicked off with an awareness program and speakers including Griffiths, who told his story, and including city streets as well as rather lonely country roads which were populated by little more than Griffiths and his thoughts.
Along the way – a route that started in NYC’s The Cure Thrift Shop and wove through Rockville, Babylon, Medford, Port Washington, Huntington and Queens before concluding back in Manhattan – he posted status updates on Facebook and Twitter, sharing his experience with his social media community, including episodes of hypoglycemia that didn’t slow him down.
Griffiths tweeted at the end of his magnificent milestone: “Just to let you all know I done itttt.7 marathons! Yes!! Have that type 1 diabetes and proud. Come on!”
He then set off for several speaking engagements he’d lined up, including his first in front of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Minneapolis two days after completing the almost 296-kilometer trek.
“I’m not just running for myself,” he said, adding that having diabetes and wanting to inspire others with diabetes is the main reason behind the grueling challenges he sets for himself.
“It made me a runner,” he said of his diabetes. “It gives me more motivation, and the challenges I set seem to get bigger and bigger.”
For more information about Gavin Griffiths, visit his website at diathlete.org or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.