ORLANDO, Fla. – For Texas resident Don Muchow anything is possible, including a run from Disneyland to Walt Disney World.
For anyone wondering, the monumental journey is roughly 2,761 miles and will take you through eight different states.
On Monday, the 59-year-old runner and Ironman, reached Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park after running across the country as the first Type 1 diabetic.
“I was diagnosed in 1972. Back then, there were no glucose meters and doctors knew the risks of low blood sugar,” Muchow explained. “My doctor told me not to exercise and I followed those instructions for 42 years.”
Through his journey as a new Type 1 diabetic, Muchow began to experience vision complications by 2003. He said ultimately these new medical problems helped kick start his mission to get healthy and inspire others diabetics just like him.
“Many of us, you know, want to be active, we want to be healthy, want to avoid complications but there are complications to avoiding complications, and I wanted to help people who were living with the disease see that there are safe ways to do even epic things,” he said.
So why the Disney parks and why across the country?
“I have a friend of mine, and when I was explaining the transcontinental run, and he’s a huge Disney fan, he said basically, ‘Well are you running from Disneyland to Walt Disney World?’” Muchow explained. “A little light bulb went on in my head and I said, ‘I don’t think anyone’s ever done that-- let’s go look it up,’ and no one had. So to me it made it special, to kind of help fulfill a dream of his and it’s always been a dream of mine to run across the country.”
Muchow’s journey was not just about reaching the Disney parks.
He also wanted to get his foot wet in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at the start and end of his journey.
The huge mission began in California’s Newport Beach in February 2020 and while he hoped to finish the journey in one attempt -- life had other plans.
One month into the mission, Muchow said his father passed away and one week prior to that the coronavirus pandemic began to take a toll on the country.
He said he was running through New Mexico when he noticed a Costco had run out of water and had long lines of people.
“We knew the headlines had become increasingly alarming, especially when the NBA canceled the season in early March, but that made us think hard about the wisdom of being out here at all,” he said.
“We did our first big pause on March 24 of 2020. That was for six months, we picked back up in September, during a low in the (coronavirus) numbers and ran the remainder of the way across Texas.”
It wasn’t until March 2, Muchow and his wife continued their journey east at the Texas and Arkansas border. Muchow said each time they had to pause they picked a spot they could find again on Google maps to resume.
Each day, Muchow is running an estimated 32 miles from sunrise to sunset, with a rest day every 10 days.
“It’s one long road out there, and it can make my day to meet a random stranger going the other way across the country, connect that with a friend or anything like that,” he said.
Muchow gives himself insulin shots every day and uses a Tandem insulin pump and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor to help prevent dangerous low and high blood sugars while he is out running. The Dexcom technology is also linked to his wife’s phone so she receives an alert if his levels get too low.
Muchow said through his journey across the country, the states of Arizona and Alabama were the hardest to run through.
“Arizona because, and I knew this ahead of time, but there were many two lane canyon roads with barely any shoulder and steep drop off the hills,” he explained. “When we got into Alabama everything looked great until we got south of Tuscaloosa. We were in the foothills of the Appalachians, and there were these monster hills that kept coming at us like a roller coaster.”
Muchow made it into Florida on March 27 and hopes to reach Melbourne on April 7.
He said the first thing he will do when he reaches Melbourne will be to get his foot wet in the Atlantic Ocean.
“I also wanted to do a little private remembrance of my father who was a big fan and had just followed this the run every inch of the way,” he said. “I have some other family, my biological father and his wife, who I’ll be meeting. And we’re going to celebrate the good things that happened this year.”
He said when his run is finally over, he is planning a more relaxed trip to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy a trip around the “It’s a Small World” attraction.
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