In many ways, Brooklyn Heights resident Dylan Kwait is your typical psychotic person who decides to run a marathon: he’s young (33), active, and, as a radiology resident at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center, barely able squeeze running into his hectic schedule. But in one really big way, Kwait is a rarity among marathoners, having been diagnosed five years ago with type-1 diabetes, a condition he controls by giving himself daily insulin shots to make up for his body’s deficit.
“I was in medical school at the time, and started to recognize some of the symptoms of diabetes,” he recalled. Kwait, who has been a runner his entire life, was in the midst of training for what was to be his first marathon, in Boston, when he began feeling hungry and thirsty all the time, urinating more frequently, and experiencing blurry vision. Nervous, he made an appointment to see his internist. “My family doctor told me I was crazy, and all medical students diagnose themselves with one thing or another.”
As it turns out, Kwait was not so nuts: the day after completing a 15-mile run, he was informed he had diabetes; that his immune system was attacking the cells that create insulin in the body; and that, as a result, there would be no Boston Marathon for him that year.
“I swore I’d still run,” said Kwait, who was planning to run that race in support of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute because his father, who ran the New York City Marathon several times, was battling prostate cancer. “But it was in my best interest to put the breaks on.”
It took some time for Kwait to adjust not only to injecting himself with insulin a few times a day, but to being a person with a chronic illness. “When I was first diagnosed I had a lot of questions, the way anybody diagnosed with a chronic illness late in life would,” he said. “I wondered if I would be able to run, or scuba dive. I wondered if I could be a doctor. I had no idea what life was going to be like.”
Here’s a glimpse of what life with type-1 diabetes is like for Dylan Kwait: he completed medical school; ran the New York City Marathon last year in under four hours; and was selected by Bank of America to be one of 13 people to run in this year’s “Let’s Run Together” Charity Relay. Because Kwait completed his two-mile leg at last weekend’s Chicago Marathon (alongside U.S. soccer stars Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, and Alex Morgan), Bank of America will donate $5,000 to the Chicago Diabetes Project, his charity of choice.
Besides wanting to raise money and awareness for diabetes research, Kwait got back on the running horse for the same reason countless other people do. “We all need to be health conscious,” he said, acknowledging that rigorous exercise and diabetes management don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. “It does make it a little more challenging, because it’s more difficult to adjust my insulin to accommodate for all the exercise I’m doing.”
He recommends, both as a doctor and a runner, that anybody with type-1 diabetes contemplating a marathon run consult their physician first. “It can be done,” he promised. “With a little more planning and a little more forethought, there don’t have to be any limitations on what you do.”
Next up: a scuba dive, perhaps?