With his goal to “inspire people to live life to the fullest, no matter what challenges they face”, Sebastian Sasseville took time out from cooling his heels in a pond at the Upper Canada Campground on Wednesday, May 21 to talk about diabetes and how his diabetes has “been a vehicle for growth”.
Sasseville, is on a 7,500 km solo run, ‘Outrun Diabetes’ across Canada, a run that started in St. John’s Newfoundland on February 2, and will wrap up in Vancouver in November.
A native of Quebec City, 34-year-old Sasseville was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was 22. “I was your typical college kid, enjoying life. I was probably spending more time in a pub than in a gym.”
“With Type I diabetes, there was nothing I had done wrong.”
From day one he says he started eating better and getter exercise. “My diabetes became a vehicle for personal growth, and I decided to make the obstacle something good.”
Six years ago, Sasseville became the first Canadian with Type 1 diabetes to summit Everest. He then got involved in Triathlon events and eventually Ironman Triathlon. “I flirted with ultra running and in 2012, I participated in the 250 km Sahara Race in Eygpt.”
“I have just kind of built my abilities and confidence along the way. I want people to know I was not an athlete. I wasn’t good at sports. People need to know it has been done with work and dedication. I don’t want anyone to look at my story and think I am a gifted athlete.”
After Everest and the Sahara, Sasseville says he began to think about running across Canada, how long it would take and how many cities he would go through. “It started with a dream. I was looking for a good way to inspire people and I was looking for a new challenge. It was about athletics, but also about raising awareness. So I decided to commit to it and here we are.”
Sasseville kicked of his ‘Outrun Diabetes’ run on February 2, in Newfoundland. “It was a cold first two months. I picked the worst winter in 15 years for storms and cold. We took about six weeks to get across Newfoundland, and when I got on the ferry I was thinking we were done with winter.” But that wasn’t the case as winter held on through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and he even ran in snow in late April when he crossed the border into Quebec.
Sasseville runs 40 km per day for three consecutive days and then takes one day off. “Today, (Wednesday, May 21 from the Upper Canada campsite to Iroquois) was a rough day. My sleep wasn’t optimal and sometimes I am just off. So today it took longer.”
“So far so good, but I am definitely feeling fatigued. I’ve been running 3.5 months. It’s not easy. I wear an insulin pump, so very much like the run, there are good days and bad days. But my diabetes is very much under control.”
He points out that people with diabetes need good sleep, good nutrition and exercise. “Obviously, I am probably doing too much, but exercise for people with diabetes should be viewed the same as their medication.”
Since the February start, Sasseville has been accompanied by Robert St. Martin. They will be joined by one other volunteer through the upcoming busy stretch through Ontario to Windsor.
The run is in segments and accommodations are set up in the middle of the segments. They were welcomed by David and Ruth Wells to the Upper Canada Campground on Sunday, May 18. On Wednesday, Sasseville ran to Iroquois and then returned to the campground. Thursday he would pick up the run from Iroquois on and the team was to move to forward to the next base camp in the Thousand Islands area.
David and Ruth have been wonderful here. It’s totally free of charge and that is what has been wonderful with this project. People like David and Ruth have reached out to help. It’s really amazing.”
There are 3 million people living with diabetes in Canada, says Sasseville, and 90 percent are type II which can be avoided or delayed. “My goal is to inspire people to live life to the fullest, no matter what the challenge they face. It’s about overcoming obstacles, it’s about making the obstacle your friend. My diabetes has been a great vehicle for growth.”
“That is what is driving me. The cause and the people who are at the centre of it.”
Major sponsors for ‘Outrun Diabetes’ are Animas Canada, One Touch, Nova Nordisk, Biotherm Homme and 2XU.
“They believe in the vision and they are making it happen. They have put together events in various communities, and are phenomenal partners. They are making the run accessible to everyone.”