Missy Donovan will represent Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit focusing on advocacy for Type 1 diabetes, along with 29 other runners from around the world.

By Tim Donovan

Photo: Missy showing her insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor following the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. Courtesy of Tim Donovan.

Missy Donovan, 30, a resident of Observatory Hill, started running casually in junior high school. It wasn’t until 2012, though, that she began to take it seriously, and signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. It was the first of many to come.

“Running really is a love-hate relationship,” says Donovan. “It can be challenging, but the result is like no other. The feeling of success after finishing a race, or even a long run, is unmatched.” Since her first half marathon, Donovan has completed over a dozen of them, plus two full marathons. The New York City Marathon on Nov. 3 is her next challenge. There, Donovan, who has Type 1 diabetes, will represent Beyond Type 1 along with 29 other runners from around the world.

The New York City Marathon, founded in 1970, has grown to be the largest marathon in the world. According to Runner’s World Magazine, in 2018, 52,812 athletes completed the full 26.2 miles across all five boroughs of New York City. Getting into the race is not easy. There are a few ways to receive a guaranteed entry, including having a qualifying time and partnering with an official charity. If not accepted through these means, runners can sign up for the lottery system. In 2018, 105,184 runners signed up for the lottery system and only 15,640 were chosen.

Missy Donovan, right, with her husband, Tim, at this year’s half-marathon in Pittsburgh. She will represent Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit that’s “uniting the “global diabetes community,” in the NYC Marathon on Nov. 3. Photo courtesy of Tim Donovan.

“It is extremely hard to get in,” says Donovan. “I am fortunate to have been selected by the Beyond Type 1 charity to run on their behalf.”

Beyond Type 1 was founded in 2015 by several individuals affected by Type 1 diabetes, including musical artist, Nick Jonas. According to the nonprofit’s website,
“Beyond Type 1 is uniting the global diabetes community and providing solutions to improve lives today.” It focuses on “education, advocacy and the path to a cure for Type 1 diabetes” through “platforms, programs, resources, and grants.”

In order to be selected to be part of the Beyond Type 1 team, applicants had to be living with Type 1 diabetes, willing to train and run the race, have a social media
presence, and raise $3,000. They each completed an application and made a video stating why they should be chosen.

“It took several weeks after completing the application to hear anything, but when I found out, I was ecstatic,” says Donovan. “Now I’m training and raising money.”
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that can be deadly if it’s not treated. Donovan explains that when a person without diabetes eats, their pancreas automatically releases insulin. The insulin allows cells to absorb the glucose in the blood. People with Type 1 diabetes, however, do not produce insulin. This means that the sugar stays in their blood, which if left untreated, can have dire outcomes. People with Type 1 diabetes remedy this by either manually injecting insulin with a syringe or using an insulin pump. Treating with too much insulin can also make for extremely serious consequences.

“It’s a constant balancing act,” says Donovan. “I can never let up or take a break. I have to constantly be aware of what my blood sugar is.” She’s been monitoring it since she was five years old, which is when she was diagnosed.

Though Donovan has run marathons before, training for 26.2 miles, she says, is never easy.

“It’s a full-time job. I follow an 18-week training plan, and running is pretty much my life through those weeks,” she says. Running with Type 1 diabetes also adds extra
challenges.

When Donovan was attempting her first marathon, she experienced Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) and ended up in the emergency room. DKA happens when the body breaks down fat so fast that the blood becomes acidic. She gave up on that race, she says, but after a few years passed, was determined to try again and found groups like Beyond Type 1 to help motivate and support her.

As for the future, Donovan expects many more races, and hopefully a cure for diabetes.

“In the 25 years since being diagnosed, the development in diabetes technology has been amazing,” says Donovan, who wears an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). The sensor for the CGM is under her skin and sends her blood sugar readings to her watch.

“Hopefully, technology continues to advance. In the meantime, I am going to continue to advocate for people with this disease, break stereotypes, and work hard to encourage others living with Type 1 diabetes that they have no limits.”