“When I sat my kids down one night and told them I was going to run across the country from one coast to another,they thought I was crazy and going through a mid-life crisis,” said Jim McCord,45,who has been running across American highway's to promote diabetes awareness. “They all had surprised looks on their faces but after I explained what my reason was they supported me and have been behind me 100 percent of the way.”
McCord,who lives in Fort Thomas,Ky.,started his run in San Diego on May 1,his daughter Maggie's birthday. He is in the last leg of his long and tiresome journey that will end in Washington,D.C.,on the steps of the Capitol on Nov. 2 at noon.
The reason for this cross-country quest is to raise awareness about diabetes and the shortage of federal funding it has received in comparison with other research organizations.
McCord was inspired after seeing Peter Fish,then 65 in May of 2001,run from Kentucky to Washington,D.C.,to help his daughter fight sarcoma,a form of cancer.
McCord decided that he would soon take on a similar challenge after running a couple of miles with Fish that day and later sitting his children down and revealing to them his far-fetched idea. “I thought he was absolutely nuts! I still think he's a little nuts,but that's how change happens,” said Maggie McCord.
According to the National Institute of Health,(NIH),they are closer than ever before in coming up with a cure for diabetes but more funding is needed.
A report sponsored by Congress conducted a study in 2000 showing that diabetes is profoundly under-funded.
“A study showed that a Type I diabetic has a 33 percent chance of living to the age of 55,” said McCord. “It's hard to think that my daughter has a one-third chance of living to the age of 55 when a disease that researchers are saying will be cured 15 to 20 years from now.”
McCord,who worked as a real estate agent,took a leave of absence and sold his house in order to buy the RV used and fund the expedition that would last almost six months. He runs an average of 20 to 24 miles a day.
“I start my day about 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. and run in seven mile increments,stopping around noon,running two days and resting on every third,” explained McCord.
Although,he has had no major injuries or health complications,McCord's venture across the rough terrain and diverse weather of the United States has challenged his mental and physical boundaries.
“There have been a couple of close calls with drivers while out on the two-lane highways…drivers will come close to hitting me when they pass another car,not noticing that I'm running on the other side of the road,” said McCord. “One car,when passing another,came so close that the vehicle brushed against the sleeve on my arm…the driver must have been going at least 60 mph.”
He also experienced dizzy spells from lack of vitamins and minerals and too much water consumption. “Twice in one day I started running the wrong way from the direction I had already come from and my daughter and friend laughed and made fun of me,…I though I might have to stop or postpone the run,” said McCord
McCord,who was not a professional runner,had to hire a trainer to help him survive the elements and wear and tear of running such an incredible distance for such a stretch of time.
“After searching through several candidates for a trainer that would fit my needs,I found Lisa Smith from Idaho at the Death Valley,Bad Water 135 Run in July of 2001 where runners ran a straight 135-mile stretch in temperatures averaging at 125 degrees.
Through phone calls and e-mails she has managed to prepare me for a grand task. I was not a runner and weighed 240 pounds and only had a year to train,” said McCord.
He began in small strides by walking,and doing cardio exercises such as jumping jacks,jump ropes and stair master. His trainer also required him to see a chiropractor,massage therapist and attend yoga all once a week. After about four months into training he was able to run an exhausting 100 miles a week.
Resting in campgrounds and Wal Mart parking lots,McCord checks his website,www.diabetesinfo.cc every chance he gets in order to read and reply to the vast amounts of e-mails he receives from patients and other curious followers that have been touched by his determined mission thanks to the media that has been covering his progress through the months.
“I have been on tons of radio talk shows and TV news programs and have been covered by many newspapers,” said McCord gratifyingly. “Some days I receive over 150 e-mails from people who have read,heard or seen me on television.”
McCord has had tremendous support from family,friends and total strangers keeping up with his cross-country cause for awareness.
Many plan to meet up with him on the Capitol Hill steps on Saturday including actor John Ratzenberger,who played “Cliff Clavin” on the 80's comedy sitcom,“Cheers.”
Ratzenberger had ridden a Harley cross country for a similar cause for his teenage son who is also a Type I diabetic.
Ratzenberger was surfing the net when he came across McCord's website and called McCord. Ratzenberger told McCord,“I want to tell you two things,one,that I think you're nuts and two,I will do anything I can do to help,it's an incredible crusade you're undertaking.”
Ratzenberger has helped McCord bring his mission to the public eye through connections with FOX news affiliates and has also paid for McCord's stay in Washington,D.C.
“The goal was to get President Bush out on the Hill when I arrived or at least a White House representative,but we would be happy to meet with anyone,obviously as high up in the government as possible,” explained McCord.
Remaining confident,McCord hopes that Congress will take into consideration the statistics and the thousands of petitions and reevaluate the federal funding.
“What we are hoping for is that Congress will contribute at least $2 billion more to the research for a cure that might be in reach if the funding is in fact made available,” said McCord
McCord,who is ahead of schedule,does admit that the half-year voyage across America has been a physical and mental fight the whole way.
“It has been a very emotional and spiritual challenge being away from my family and friends for six months.”
By the end of his run,McCord will have covered about 2,940 miles,averaging 26 miles a day.
McCord said that although the physical demand has been a harsh struggle,the mental challenge has definitely been a storm to weather. “Sometimes,it's like being in the Twilight Zone,trying to put all things going on in your life and the run in perspective…it's not really your typical,normal life.”
Maggie sympathizes with her father,knowing that this quest is something that means so much for him to finish,she often times feels regret for letting him go through such a life-style altering state. “I feel guilty at times for everything he has given up for this and me,” said Maggie sympathetically. “The house he sold was his dream home,it sat on three acres of beautiful land and had a lake in the front and he gave it all up for me and this cause.”
Maggie has met up with her father three times since the beginning of his coast-to-coast run and they shared many heartfelt moments,“My father and I had got into an argument somewhere out in the southwest because I wasn't paying close enough attention to my blood sugar levels and checking them as much as I should have,” said Maggie. “It was pretty intense,we yelled at each other but it just showed me how much he loves me and how serious this illness is in terms of control.”
Although,a long time has spent away from home and family,Maggie agrees with her father that this journey for diabetes has meant a lot to both of them and has brought them closer spiritually and mentally.
“Our relationship between my dad and the four of us has become really incredible,our bond is much stronger,” said Maggie.
McCord took a side trip to New York where he spoke at a Diabetes Research Institute conference called,“Pathways to a Cure,” then continues to Capitol Hill on Saturday .
“I'm tired and anxious to get home and be with my family,the very last thing I want to do is wake up in the morning and run a marathon each day,its tiresome but it has all been well worth it in so many ways.”