T1D Champion Spotlight: Michael Ehrlich

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How many non-stop, sleepless miles would you walk for type 1 diabetes (T1D) research? Michael Ehrlich’s answer: AT LEAST 107.

In 2017, inspired by the New York City skyline and driven by his passion to find a cure for T1D in honor of his daughter, Rachael, Michael set out to walk 125 miles from Manhattan to Montauk with a goal of raising $35,000 for T1D research. 3 long and sleepless days later, with swollen ankles to prove it, he successfully completed the longest “walk for a cure” that the JDRF Greater New York City area had ever seen.

AND, he’s not done yet! This October, Michael’s heading out east once again – this time with a goal of walking from Manhattan to Orient Point (a total of 107 Miles) in 50 hours, with no sleep and no pack.

After Rachael was diagnosed in 2016, Michael sought out to find the perfect way to support his daughter and raise critical funds for JDRF and T1D research. Rather than participating in one of JDRF’s flagship events, Michael wanted to do something that was all his own. “I kept thinking, ‘What will people think is insane? What will make this really unique?’” Michael explained, and after noticing the New York City skyline on a commute home from work, the idea struck.

“Something that I admire about Michael is his drive.  He doesn’t like to wallow, he wants to act.  If he gets something in his head, he goes for it,” Michael’s wife, Leanne, shared. “His thought process was, “I don’t know much about research and medicine, but I can do this.”

When Rachael was hospitalized in 2016, the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was a total shock. “She was scared but really brave. I was a basket case, but she was so strong.” Now four years later, in addition to being an avid soccer player and all-around athlete, Rachael is a pro at estimating her carbs, though has had challenges with discipline of her diabetes management this summer.

In preparation for his upcoming quest, Michael walks roughly 60 miles a week. “You can’t really practice doing something like this,” he explains. “When I was training for the first one, I was steadily increasing my miles, seeing if I could walk through the night, building stamina, thinking about what could possibly start hurting, and just preparing for that. Once you get past the first 40 miles, it’s really just a mind game.”

“When he said it was going to do it again, I thought he was crazy,” Leanne shared. “But I feel like he is a good planner, and when it comes to those kinds of things, he knows what he’s doing.” When asked if she would ever be willing to join in, Leanne laughed and said, “He suggested it actually. I don’t know. I’ll never say never.”

Compared to Michael’s first walk, this year’s will be a little shorter and a lot lighter. Although the distance to Orient Point is 12 less miles than to Montauk, the elevation increases are 4 times greater than the previous walk.  Michael is bringing significantly fewer supplies with him to help ease the burden. “All I’ll have with me is whatever I can fit in my pockets: medical supplies, spare batteries, my phone and some water bottles.”

As Michael continues to prepare, he is once again counting on the support of the community to keep him going. During his 3-day long haul last year, the community helped him focus on his goal and push through by encouraging him along the way with phone calls, meeting him along the route to offer thanks, inspiration, medical help and food – and some even walking alongside him for a few miles.

What Michael’s story truly shows, is that we are indeed #StrongerTogether.

You can learn more about Michael’s story and upcoming walk HERE.