SALT LAKE CITY — As Doug Masiuk took his first steps on May 20 out of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, he was only sure of two things: that he was a diabetic, and that he was going to run every step of the way to New York City.
He wasn't entirely sure of how his trip would be funded, or from which source of strength he would pull when he couldn't fathom taking another step forward. He didn't know about the people he would meet along the way who would find inspiration in what he was trying to accomplish.
"I wasn't saying, ‘What did I get myself into?' with those first steps," Masiuk said. "It was more, ‘Here we go; we've got a lot to accomplish in the next couple months. Get ready, it's going to be exciting."
On day 30, Masiuk reached Salt Lake City.
"Salt Lake City is kind of an oasis," he said. "You're coming out of a really neat, but desolate, part of the country. Then, here are buildings. Here are highways, interchanges. Here are stoplights."
And here are more diabetics whom Masiuk hopes to inspire to beat the disease. He said that is why he started to run in the first place, and that is why he is running across a nation in which more than 8 percent of its inhabitants have diabetes.
Masiuk has type-1 diabetes: his body does not make insulin. He was not always as healthy as he was today, and it took the early, unexpected death of a relative for Masiuk to realize that his habits had to change.
"It was late one night, and I put on my shoes, went out and ran one-eighth of a mile," he said. "I fell over the side of road, nauseous, and went home and slept for about two days. On the third day, I woke up and made it a few extra feet, fell over again, and continued to do that, day in and day out."
"After a month, I was going significant distances."
And he was. Thirty-six miles a day at his peak, in fact. At one point, he went 17 days without an insulin injection — no small feat. So he decided he would do something that a few have managed, none among them a diabetic: run across the United States, from coast to coast.
"I'd heard that others have done it, and I said, "Why can't a type-1 diabetic do it?'" Masiuk said. "Diabetics are doing all kinds of great things. My body was strong, I knew I could do it and I guess it was my way of saying thank you to a lot of people who have worked really hard to give diabetics a chance at a full, well-adjusted life. This is my chance to motivate and inspire other diabetics."
Masiuk is expecting to see New York in late September or early October, after more than four months of running 2030 miles a day and visiting people along the way. He said everywhere he stops, he meets people who have been affected in some way by diabetes.
"It really paints a picture for the scope and size of it," he said.
He told a story of one woman he met who, with tears in her eyes, talked about growing up with a mother who had diabetes.
"She was really sad; she lost her mom in her mid-40s," he said. "I hear these stories."
But there are hopeful stories, as well, such as that of a woman who was diagnosed with diabetes in the 1930s, and despite only relatively recent technological advancements, has survived into her 80s.
"This woman beat the odds," Masiuk said. "She defied them in so many ways."
Masiuk is hoping to inspire others — to show them that they, too, can beat the odds.
"Sure it's tough, and it takes responsibility; it takes discipline and hard work," he said. "I think diabetics and non-diabetics alike, you have a lot of responsibility and life isn't simple."
"But to be able to say you're going to have a long, successful life, to be able to share that with a generation of diabetics so they can find their version of running across the U.S., so they won't use diabtetes as an excuse … that's something."