Outrunning Diabetes

Sébastien sasseville runs solo, cross-country marathon

By Jason Santerre

On November 14, 1891, in the small farming community of Alliston, Ontario, Frederick Banting was born. Exactly 123 years later, Sébastien Sasseville will complete his cross-Canada marathon in Vancouver.

Dr. Banting’s work led to the discovery that insulin was a lifesaver for diabetics. Mr. Sasseville, a 34-year-old diabetic endurance runner from Quebec City, is raising awareness about the disease by running across Canada. He plans to arrive in Vancouver on Novemeber 14th, Banting’s birthday, or National Diabetes Day. Sébastien took some time out of his running regimen to speak with us about his disease, his mission and his unique view on Canada.

Montréal enSanté: Tell us about your goal.
Sébastien Sasseville: What I wanted most was to reach out to people and inspire, educate and empower them. The magnitude of the challenge of running across Canada appealed to me. I competed in the Sahara race in 2012, a 250-km self-supported marathon across the desert, and it gave me confidence in my running ability. Actually, I was still sore from that race when I decided to commit to the run across Canada (laughs).

MES: You’re right around the halfway point now (late July), so does that mean you’re on track to reach Vancouver for November 14?
SS: Absolutely. It was almost arrogant to set an arrival date for such a journey, but so far we’ve managed to stay on schedule. Anything can happen at any time so we are far from celebrating.

MES: How did you prepare for this ultimate test in endurance?
SS: I focused on my form. This run isn’t about running fast it’s about running well. Core strength is key. I also spent a lot of time with the best specialists I could find to elaborate on a good recovery routine, which is the name of the game. It’s what I do when I’m not running that makes me successful.

MES: What kind of extra challenge does diabetes pose while doing this?
SS: Diabetes certainly adds extra layers to planning, from monitoring blood glucose and counting carbs to balancing all of the exercise while in a state of exhaustion is quite an undertaking. I look at my insulin pump and glucose-monitoring system every 30 minutes and adjust accordingly.

MES: Tell us about when you first learned that you had diabetes?
SS: I was 22 years old when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My brother was diagnosed six years before so I was familiar with the disease. Still, I was in shock. My life changed in an instant and I didn’t know if I would be able to continue pursuing my dreams.

MES: What’s been the most challenging section of Canada so far?
SS: Ontario, for sure. The run was the easy part, but we were pulled in so many directions by various events, media, and our commitments to sponsors. Northern Ontario was very quiet and loneliness kicked in. For about 1,500 km I ran in the middle of nowhere surrounded by trees.

MES: What about the reaction from people you meet along your route?
SS: People are definitely inspired, which brings me a lot of joy. Joggers join my run for small sections here and there and that’s been awesome. My dream was to create something people could be a part of. I wanted people to feel this was their run.

MES: What does a typical day look like for you?
SS: Up around 6 a.m. Breakfast. Then drive to the starting point. I run 20 km in the morning. Stop for lunch. Run 20 km in the afternoon. I do that five or six days a week. At the end of the day we take note of the finish point and drive back to start from that point the next morning.

MES: How do you stay motivated every day?
SS: I have good days and bad days like everyone. Consistency is my number one weapon. I listen to music, podcasts, or just focus on the scenery. Patrick St-Martin, a dear friend and the only person with me on the road, helps a lot. We have a lot of fun and so far we’ve managed not to kill each other after six months on the road (laughs).

MES: What’s the best way for people to make donations and help?
SS: The best way is via our website at outrundiabetes.org. People can support both the journey and diabetes research.

Fall 2014, Vol 6 N°4

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