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Pat Doolan started running in order to combat his diabetes, but he has found a new passion in the sport. (Photo courtesy of Pat Doolan )
As someone living with diabetes, Pat Doolan has always been aware of his health and the importance of exercise for combating the disease. In addition to trying to eat right, Pat has always focused on working out at the gym, but when COVID hit, a number of factors led to a rise in his numbers.
In late spring 2020, Pat had an appointment with his doctor. Due to a number of factors, including more pressure in his work at a computer technician, the ease of access to fast food when other restaurants closed, and the gyms closing, Pat’s doctor expressed concern.
“With COVID, I went a little off-pace and the doctor said I needed to get out there and do something,” says Pat. “I had always tried to control my diabetes by going to the gym, but with everything closed down and only fast food places open, I had to find something else. I’m not the best runner in the world, but I started running in the summer.”
As Pat didn’t have much experience with running, he decided to use the “My First 5K” feature on the Runkeeper app. The feature was designed for those with little to no running experience and gives those lacing up their running shoes three workouts a week for six weeks, with each workout building on the last.
“I’m glad I started when I did,” says Pat. “It was life-changing. My A1C [a blood test for diabetes and pre-diabetes] went down and I’m able to be more mobile. It’s all about baby steps, taking it one day at a time, and just going out there.”
Pat started running in the summer and while the summer heat was not ideal, he persevered. When Pat reached the halfway point of his training, the app suggested that he sign up for a 5K.
“Because of COVID, there were no races going on so I typed in virtual races and before I knew it, I was seeing ads for all kinds of races,” says Pat. “One of the ads had a Baby Yoda medal and I thought it was pretty cute, so I signed up for it.”
Pat completed his first 5K in August and has been going strong ever since. With virtual 5Ks, participants sign up online with a pledge to run a 5K. With registration payment, there is a variety of swag, including T-shirts, medals, and race bibs. Many of the races are also fundraisers for causes including breast cancer, autism, and more.
“Not only do you get good swag, but many of the races are for charity and after you’re done, you feel good,” says Pat. “It becomes addicting in a good way. I want to get all the medals I can get and once you sign up for one, you want more.”
As Pat got more into running, he joined different running groups and pages on Facebook, finding a supportive community. After completing about a dozen 5Ks, Pat decided to attempt a 10K, a goal he completed in late January, just before his 40th birthday.
“I’d been doing 5Ks almost every other day so I had to push it to the next level,” says Pat. “When I posted in my groups about finishing my first 10K, I got so many people saying congratulations and people asking when I was doing my first half-marathon.”
In the past, Pat never would have thought he’d be considering signing up for a half-marathon, but with his training, he has now set that as a goal after he successfully completes several 10Ks.
While that goal may seem lofty to some, Pat recently signed up for the Infinity 60K Gauntlet, which is a series of six 10Ks. The Gauntlet Challenge benefits the Pinky Swear Foundation, an organization helps kids with cancer and their families with financial and emotional support and the medal for completion featured the Avengers’ Infinity Gauntlet with an infinity stone for each 10K.
“Hopefully I’ll have those completed, along with another I signed up for, by spring,” says Pat. “That’ll be eight 10Ks and then I’ll think about the half-marathon.”
Since he began running, Pat has seen the impact of the support he has received from both friends and through his online running groups. He remembers several friends encouraging him to give running a try and offering advice. One of his friends who lives overseas not only encouraged him with running, but helped Pat with tips on his diet as well.
Knowing how much the support meant to him, Pat hoped to share that type of support with others. Again encouraged by his friends, Pat created both a Facebook page (East Haven Runners) and an Instagram account (Running with Wolves) to not only detail his journey, but create a community of runners.
“My friends have helped keep me on my path and they inspire me,” says Pat. “When I first started getting medals and swag, someone I work with bought me a big shadowbox and said I had inspired her. That’s when it first clicked and when I realized I was could help people. I’m definitely willing to help people out. I want to help people get more confident to get out there.”
Pat notes that East Haven has so many nice places to run, saying that he particularly enjoys running near the beach.
Pat has lived in town for most of his life, spending a few years in New Jersey where he was a professional wrestler. He also lived in Vermont for one year, but besides that and his time in New Jersey, Pat has always called East Haven home.
“You don’t realize how much you can miss a beach until you don’t live near it. I love living and running near the beach,” says Pat. “I also love the neighborhood, friends, family, and the nature and culture of town. It’s special being in a beach town with my family, friends, and people I grew up with.”
Even though it hasn’t exactly been beach weather lately, Pat hasn’t stopped running by the beach. In January, he completed the Winter Warrior Challenge, running at least one mile every day outdoors.
“On a day like today when it’s 12 degrees, it’s challenging, but once you’re moving, it’s not too bad,” says Pat, who encourages others to take the first steps as well. “If I could do it, other people can too. I just got out there, put my headphones on, and went with it.”
Since first logging into Runkeeper’s My First 5K, Pat has gone through three pairs of running shoes. He has also shifted to the Strava app for logging his miles.
Pat is not the only who has seen his progress. While Pat has seen his ability to run improve and increase distances he runs, his doctor has seen a positive change as well. Pat recently went to a follow-up appointment with his doctor for bloodwork for his diabetes.
“Ever since I started running, my numbers are better,” says Pat, who also enjoys biking, swimming, and spending time with friends and family. “A lot of people are worried about different health things and running could help. The first couple weeks, I hated it with a passion, but after a while, your body gets used to it. My First 5k was so important in the process because it helped get me to where I need to be.”
Pat Doolan is on Facebook under East Haven Runners and Instagram under Running with Wolves.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .