Michael Frederick of Lady's Island will line up Monday morning with more than 25,000 others in the Boston Marathon, perhaps feeling a bit like a mouse in a maze.
He has trained for months and now is poring over maps of the course. He knows he'll face a special challenge when he hits "Heartbreak Hill." It will come at the 21-mile mark of the 26.2-mile run. In his training, he has run 20 miles four or five times, but says: "Farther than I've ever gone, I'll be climbing a giant hill."
That's symbolic of Frederick's life.
Like 36,400 other South Carolinians, Frederick has type 1 diabetes. He was told as a child he might only live to 40.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Diabetes has cost him sight in one eye. But due to constant attention to his blood glucose, an insulin pump, healthy eating and exercise, Frederick is thriving well beyond 40. He's an architect practicing with his wife, Jane. He's a father and community activist for causes to make this a healthier and more beautiful community.
He has been training for his first marathon by running the McTeer Bridge, jogging through town and participating in local races to get ready for the hills of Boston.
"I think I'm going to make it," he said. "I want to do well. Anything under four hours would be good for me."
But Frederick qualified for the marathon with a much different stopwatch than the others. His clock isn't limited to the three and half hours he would normally need to qualify. It covers the half century he has beaten the autoimmune disease with no known cause or cure.
Frederick is one of about 800 people nationwide to be awarded the Joslin 50-Year Medal. His entry in the marathon was an invitation to join Team Joslin, which was given a slot to raise money for the Joslin Diabetes Center. Frederick has raised $9,100 (www.run4dcure.com) for the research and clinical-care institution affiliated with the Harvard Medical School.
He's more excited about his role as a laboratory mouse, so to speak, than as a runner or fundraiser.
Joslin researchers have discovered a gold mine in studying the 50-Year Medalists. Researchers have been surprised to find that many are still producing insulin, decades after their bodies began destroying insulin-producing beta cells. They are using skin cells from Medalists to "model diabetes in a dish." When mixed with vascular cells, kidney cells or eye cells, this can provide "clues to their uncanny survival skills in Medalists," Joslin reports.
Frederick hopes the new clues lead to a cure, conquering something much greater than Heartbreak Hill.