Daily frustrations/excitements of a diabetic, student, and entrepreneur 

"I Can" and "Because of/In Spite of" featuring Greg Weintraub

As I started blogging, I’ve realized how many cool people with T1D there are. So many of them are doing amazing things because of or in spite of their diabetes. As I’ve read about and talked to more people, I’ve realized just how thin the line between “because of my diabetes” and “in spite of my diabetes” is. I’ve decided to interview and write about some of the amazing people I’ve encountered. The first day of diabetes blog week has the topic of “I can” and seems like the perfect day to launch the interview series I’m calling “Because of/In spite of” and there is no better person to start the series off than Greg Weintraub.

I first discovered Greg during the week of the Boston Marathon when I was flooded with articles about him. The Boston Globe as well as many local papers were writing about the runner from Sudbury, Massachusetts who was running the Boston Marathon for the second year in a row. What made Greg running the marathon even more impressive, was the fact that he has Type-1 diabetes and running the marathon for Joslin Diabetes Center. Nothing says “I can” like running a marathon.

I met Greg for breakfast last week to learn more about his running, diabetes, and photography projects he has done over the last few years. We had a great conversation, and I learned so much about him beyond the “diabetes runner boy,” as he’s come to be known.

Greg is graduating from the New School in the next couple of weeks with a Degree in Psychology and Global Health and is then heading to Cape Town, South Africa for the next few months to work take photos and videos of health clinics and to help implement an analytics healthcare platform. He’s had diabetes for almost 14 years, and is currently on a MiniMed pump and uses the Dexcom CGM off and on. Greg personifies the idea of “I can” with the marathons he runs, photography projects he’s done, and his general attitude on diabetes and life with diabetes.

The first time he went for a run was to “show diabetes who is boss.” After a day of inexplicably crazy numbers one October in high school, Greg disconnected and went for a run. This first run was in spite of diabetes, in spite of high numbers that make you feel sick, and in spite of the inexplicable craziness diabetes can bring. Running was his way of saying “I can.”

Flash forward to October 2013 when Greg got the call that he was accepted to the JDRF Boston Marathon team for the 2014 marathon. He describes the night as being incredibly emotional, and a huge turning point in his life, he even has the voicemail saved on his phone. He later accepted a spot on the 2015 marathon Joslin team.

Training for a marathon is consuming, exhausting, and difficult, throw diabetes in there and it’s a whole different ballpark. Greg spoke a lot about the importance of making a commitment, exercising with diabetes and marathons don’t exactly respond well to someone winging it last minute. He even joked about one of his running teammates asking him about girlfriends and relationships and he answered that training for the marathon had essentially been a relationship. He talked about the unwavering focus it requires to train to have your body (and pancreas) ready to run the marathon. Greg trained to the point that he knows that running a mile in a certain amount of time will bring his numbers down so many points.

Advocacy has always been an important part of Greg’s life, and the decision to run the marathon was a sense of advocacy for Greg as well. It shows dedication and commitment to overcoming obstacles and has a bigger impact that doing a car wash or something like that. The impact of having someone with T1D run a marathon for Joslin or JDRF resonates with people and makes them more invested. Greg’s decision to run clearly resonated with people because he raised over $52,000 for the 2015 marathon.

As advocacy has been an important part of his life, Greg has had significant impacts on the diabetes community for many years. He started off doing the JDRF Walk for a Cure, the first one just three weeks after being diagnosed. Since then he’s been involved in many of the traditional ways, but also in some unique and uniquely impactful ways as well. For a number of years he did photography portraits for JDRF and Joslin, focusing on kids with T1D.

What impressed me most about Greg, was not the marathons or photos as I had expected, but the attitude in which he attacks everything. He didn’t set out to become the “diabetes runner boy” or a public face for Joslin or JDRF. In Greg’s words “things lead to things.” He says that everything he does is just the intersection of what he is most passionate about, and every opportunity he’s had then has a pathway to what he does next. Everything we talked about he spoke with enthusiasm and passion, he runs marathons because he loves to run and he is passionate about running the Boston Marathon, and to raise money and awareness for diabetes. Greg never wanted to be identified as his diabetes, but is also aware and grateful for the platform diabetes has given him. He talked about the impact diabetes has had on his life, outside of the blood sugars and carb counting, but the more nuanced impact. He said “diabetes has given my life not limits but certain rules, and my goal is to find a way to navigate the rules.”

I was so impressed by Greg’s outlook and attitude about everything, diabetes and non-diabetes related. He is a competitive, passionate, and thoughtful person who does not have the word
“no” in his vocabulary. He has already has made major impacts on the diabetes community and those around him, and as he looks forward to his future I can’t wait to see what impacts and inspiration he has on those he comes into contact with.

Just talking to Greg for a couple of hours has inspired me to take a more “I can” attitude in relation to my diabetes, but everything else as well. He has done so many inspiring cool things because of and in spite of his diabetes, and doesn’t see why a broken pancreas would prevent him from living his life.