My Adventure of a Lifetime – by Alex Williams

Alex writes to us from Australia about an epic adventure experience that took him across the world!

I have never considered having type 1 diabetes to be an impediment; it is something that I need to manage so I can live my life. And I’ve been having quite a good life, if I’m to be honest.

I have always been an active person, so a “good life” for me involves doing lots of different things, such as surfing, snow skiing, skydiving, travel, walking, and camping. In 2008, I learned of an extreme event that involved walking 250km (about 155 miles) across the Sahara Desert in 50-plus-degree Celcius (over 122 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures, called the Marathon des Sables. After discussing it with my wife, I set about getting ready for it in 2010. This involved 5,000km of training and learning lots of important stuff about food, carbohydrate, insulin and extreme exercise. After learning what I needed to know, I wondered how I had managed to survive without knowing more about the intimate relationship that exists between insulin, food, and exercise.

Just lucky, I guess.

After a flurry of organising and fanfare, I found myself at the start line in Morocco, under a blazing sun with 1,000 other pumped up people. Most of them were running, while a few of us were walking. We were all in this incredible adventure together and with a helicopter zooming overhead, we were off.

It was an incredible, life-changing experience. Sadly I couldn’t finish, as during the third day, I discovered that people with T1D are also more likely to have another condition that affects their potassium, which leads to dangerous cramping that can stop the heart. So after all the training and excitement, I couldn’t finish the event. But I had 3 days of fun and stayed with the event until the end, bouncing across the desert in a beaten up Mercedes bus.

Back in Marrakech, my friend and I heard on the BBC that a volcano had erupted in Iceland. This meant that, instead of flying back to England, we had to travel across the country from Marrakech to Gibraltar, walk to Spain, travel across Spain to a ferry in Santander, then across to England. This was a fantastic boys-own adventure that my British friend couldn’t believe we were doing! He just thought that the Aussie (me) knew what he was doing. Ha! Little did he know that I was just making it up as we went.

I finally got back to Australia a week late, but with an adventure that few people would have ever experienced under my belt, thanks to a fantastic endurance event and an act of Mother Nature.

Life is a gift and one to be cherished. T1D can be a drawback, or it can be a reason to try harder. I’ve learned so much about T1D and myself by preparing for the Marathon des Sables. If not for T1D, I wonder if I would have found myself having the adventure of a lifetime.

After 43 years with T1D, I’ll never know.

Check out more of Alex’s adventures on his blog at AlexofOz.