Beyond Type Run: Catching up with Chewey
Chewey Lam is new to the running world—but don’t let that fool you—even though he only started running in September of 2016, he’s ran 5,000 miles in 112 races so far this year.
Yep, that’s right: 5,000 miles in 112 races.
“I have a lot of friends in the nursing field, and they got me into the Denver Broncos 7k,” Chewey, who lives in Denver and has had type 1 diabetes for 14 years, says about starting out on his epic running mission last year. “It helped with some migraine symptoms I experience from time to time and in managing my blood sugars. I did another 5k after that, and I did a few races for JDRF, and that led me to do a 10k for Colfax Marathon, which turned into a half marathon, and that turned into my first marathon.
“For the Hot Chocolate for Vegas race, I did something crazy: that was the first time I did two races back-to-back. I shot a video at the finish line there to get onto the NYC Marathon team.”
Coming up, Beyond Type Run!
Chewey’s training has been a lot of races in a short amount of time, and he’s kept track of how his body has adjusted to this new lifestyle. “Before, when I first started running, a 10-minute mile was fast for me. Now, that’s not fast. When I run an eight-minute mile, that’s okay, and now when I run a seven-and-a-half-minute mile, my blood sugars will obviously spike. Before, I couldn’t run if my blood sugar was getting close to 200mg/dL (11.1mmol/L). I would be of gas. Now, I can tolerate it.”
Chewey is averaging a race every three days—a rigorous experience he compares to a baseball season. “I just keep pushing forward,” he says, “You only have a ‘First 12 Months of Running’ once!
“When I first started, I had no goal in mind. Then it became 54 [races]. Then it became 72, then it became 100, then it became 114. Now I’m just gonna keep going—I don’t have an end number in mind for this year. I know so many people with type 1, I know so many people with type 2—I’m not just running for type 1, I’m running for all the types. I’m doing it for diabetes awareness. My dad passed away from complications of type 2 diabetes, so when I run in New York City, it’ll be special for that reason as well.”
Chewey maintains a broad perspective as he completes race after race. In the rare instances where he is unable to finish a race, he uses the mental toughness he’s built to move forward and overcome those self-created hurdles.
“This past weekend, I attempted a 50-mile race. I was dehydrated, I was losing sodium, my blood sugars were yo-yo-ing. I didn’t finish the 50 miles, but I officially got a 50k finish. I was a little depressed, I’ll be honest. I hadn’t felt like that since I was diagnosed, and I didn’t anticipate that.”
It’s crucial that, Chewey says, runners and people with diabetes alike make their own health their top priority. “Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s your own pace, your own journey. You have to do what works for you. There’s no one textbook approach that works for everybody.”
What does Chewey hope to achieve by joining Beyond Type Run?
“When I was diagnosed, I flatlined a few times. I’ve been rescued a few times. I share that part because one of my things is advocating. You share the highs, you share the lows, the peaks and the valleys. I want to share that experience because I think I’m at a point where I’m strong enough to share it and help others to learn through my experiences.”
Along with encouraging other people not to hide their diabetes, Chewey aims to spread awareness about diabetes across cultures. As a poker player and host, he has connected more people with type 1 in the Denver area who also belong to the poker community. In his personal life, he hopes to create opportunities for conversations about non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other topics that are usually swept under the rug.”
“When I’m running, it’s not just for myself, it’s for the community as a whole: I’m Chinese, and when I go overseas [to visit my family], diabetes isn’t something we talk about. Some of my family doesn’t even know I have diabetes. In Asian culture, illness is hidden a lot. I’m the only person in the family with diabetes. It’s kind of hard for everyone else to accept it. When I come around for holidays, it’s different. It’s … awkward.
“So that’s the other reason why I run, to raise awareness there. They’re more comfortable talking about it now than they were before, because I’ve been a little more in their face about it.”
If you think Chewey’s slowing down after this year of running, think again. Running isn’t just a passing hobby—Chewey wants the world to know he’s in it for the long haul, and he has plans to share his experiences.
“I think I have a method when it comes to running. I want to write a book and I want to repeat the process in 2018 and put my theory to practice.”
“You’re gonna keep seeing me at the finish line. I’m gonna keep putting the message out there.”
Read more about the Beyond Type Run in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team here.