BY BRAIS DACAL, TNN AMBASSADOR
The 5K run and walk at the ADA and EASD conferences are a bit special. They have their unique vibe; it always seems as if the event has a personality of its own, and those who take part get rapidly absorbed by it.
One of the greatest aspects of the 5K@ADA Is how mixed that crowd is that participates. More than a thousand people of different nationalities, ages, professions, and levels of athletic experience take the start line. This ranges from experienced to recreational athletes gather together early in the morning to run or walk five kilometers, each person at its own pace.
I love the feeling of belonging to such a diverse and caring community. We are all together there pursuing the same goal: to educate on the importance of physical activity, raise diabetes awareness and, of course, to challenge our limits!
While I was an elite cyclist for many years, I’m not an avid runner. For me, to take part in the 5K also means to test my physical capacities. Ahead of the event, I usually follow one of the training routines available on their website, but I still end up with stiff legs once I cross the finish line. No pain, no gain!
I always participate as a pacer, which means that I run at a pre-determined pace wearing a visible sign. Then, those who run by my side know which pace they’re keeping, with no need to wear any device or watch. This allows less experienced people to have someone guiding them, and it’s also a great boost if you want to achieve a particular goal: “If I want to run the 5K in 24 minutes, I can’t let the guy with the 24’ sign go!”
I don’t limit my pacing duties just to running and finishing at an exact time. During the run, I interact with people, get to know them better, cheer them on and provide my best tips so they can keep up the pace, maximize their performance and, enjoy the experience all the way to the finish line.
It is a fulfilling task for me. I enjoy helping others and caring, and a big part of the way I live my life is based on that purpose. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing all those people who, at the beginning, thought they couldn’t run in 24 minutes, are now filled with joy and thanking me for motivating them. “I can’t believe I did it!”
I enjoy seeing the winner celebrating an impressive 16-minute sprint as much as seeing people crossing the finish line after a 45 minutes’ walk with a big smile on their faces, knowing they have accomplished something huge for themselves.
Due to the COVID-19, we won’t gather in Chicago to run all together this year. While this virus definitely has impacted our day-to-day life, it shouldn’t stop us from doing what we love. We just need to find a new way of doing those things we love in respect and safety for ourselves and others. For this reason, the 5K@ADA has moved to a Virtual Challenge and we will be all running or walking the 5k the same weekend – from the 12th to 14th of June – from our own locations. Collectively, thousands of people will be running or walking at the same time with the same goal: raising public awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing and controlling diabetes.
Taking part in initiatives like the 5K means much more than just running or walking: it strengthens and empowers the diabetes community. It’s a step forward on the path of education and awareness and allows us to feel like we are part of a community as we walk (or run) through it.