From India to NYC—Harsh Runs the World
Harsh Pandya will be traveling nearly 8,000 miles from Mumbai to New York City to participate in Beyond Type Run 2019. He has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1996. This year, he completed the Ironman 70.3 in Dubai.
How do you feel about running with a team + raising awareness for Type 1 diabetes?
I’m totally excited to be part of this year’s crew. The only time I’ve run with so many other type 1s would be at a very communal gathering, like the type 1 runs that we have. But on an international level, this will be my first time running with such a group and also my first marathon.
When did you become passionate about running?
I was 9 when I got diagnosed. So as a kid I was always playing… I played football, cricket, I was an active kid throughout. It’s been good that diabetes hasn’t stopped me from taking part in those activities. But four years ago, I was in a kind of grey area with my management and with my fitness. Because I had just graduated from college and I had nothing really important to do, I wanted to get fit. I was super heavy, like roughly, I was around 25 kilos (55 lbs) heavier than what I am right now.
So I started working out and I didn’t know how to weave my management into it. I had a few episodes that kind of made me realize that, ‘Oh, I can’t take diabetes management so lightly.’ And I was kind of taking it lightly, you know? For a while, I thought, ‘Fine, I have diabetes. If sugar is high I’ll take a dose, if sugar is low I’ll take a sugar.’ I was always winging it, but you can’t wing it for long because the repercussions will show.
Do you feel you went through a lot of stages before accepting your diagnosis?
You can still work your way around it, to do things that you always wanted to do. It should not be an obstacle for you but it should be with you. If you kind of leave it behind like I did, it’ll be a drag, so you don’t want either of those. You just want it to be with you and that’s when the acceptance part comes in. And once you do that, it changes a lot of things. For me, it was a game-changer because I’ve had diabetes for 22 years, but it took me 18 years to accept it.
Have you encountered a lot of inspiring people in the Type 1 community?
The community has been very crucial—it’s an extended family. This is my type 1 family. To have people who have the same problems, same issues, same kind of struggles as you do and to know people whom you can share such things with is good. It helps you cope with diabetes better, it just makes it easier and fun. You can meet and have a laugh about it. It’s fun to know people across the country now with social media. Tomorrow, if I know there is someone in Delhi who is also type 1 and I am in Delhi, I can just drop them a message and that’s how easy it is to get in touch with someone. It’s really important for people to take advantage of that and meet anyone and everyone they can to just share their experiences and how they manage things.
You completed a half Ironman this year—can you talk about training and your game plan for the marathon?
So the idea is already in your mind, but you don’t actually get to physically doing it because it takes a while for you to be mentally ready and ready to take up this training. To come to that point, there are phases.
When I met my coach for the half Ironman, that’s when the idea started brewing that I wanted to do something like this and I was already at a certain fitness level at that point. It took me roughly six to eight months to adjust and be ready to take up something like this. Injuries and other stuff can just elongate your process a bit, which was my case as well. I had to be really sure, physically as well as mentally, to register also but the actual physical preparation was close to five and a half months. Like before the half Ironman, I did an Olympic distance triathlon, which is give or take half of a half Ironman.
[Competing like that] gives you a very good idea as to where you stand and you know what you need to focus more on, etc. I did that in October, prepared for it a good two and a half months, but the fact that I have been cycling for a good three years and that I was running for the past two years was also an advantage.
What’s your advice to anyone for training?
It’s important that you wake up and show up for your training. It counts. I remember very well for my half Ironman training, I used to go to the pool for my swim because swim was my weakest sport. I talked to one of the other athletes who was doing a full Ironman and he said, “I could barely swim 50 meters once, and now I can swim 4 kilometers.” I asked him how that was possible and he said, “Just show up for training and you will be able to swim the distance that you are required.” So, you just have to show up. Put in the effort, miles and time to improve on everything. It’s a journey. You learn, you improvise and implement. You just do it, you know?
Harsh Pandya is raising money for Beyond Type 1 through Beyond Type Run—his fundraising will make a real difference in the lives of those living with T1D.