At the age of 14 Stephen would return home from a futbol tournament in Holland when his family noticed that something wasn't right with Stephen. "I was always thirsty and exhausted all of the time. My sister knew that something wasn't right and suggested I go to the doctor." He would be brought to his local doctor where he was told something wasn't right but that he should go to the hospital to be sure. "My parents needed to drive me forty-five minutes to the hospital, that was when I knew something was wrong. The doctor told me that I had diabetes and I fainted" All Stephen knew about diabetes was that he would need shots, he and his family would be at the hospital for a few days to learn all about diabetes. "In my mind I thought that I could cure it by having great control and taking shots for a little while. When I went to the doctor for my first checkup I asked him if I was cured, he would tell me that you can't quit diabetes." It was that comment that would stick with Stephen forever.
It wasn't until Stephen was named Surrey County cross country champion that he made a name for himself. In 2006 making New York City his home changed everything for Stephen "I had friends in NYC that liked to run and I decided to run join the NYRR. That was when I fell in love with running. Running in Central Park is amazing, it has it all, you can always find someone running in Central Park."
Running was now his life, in a two year period Stephen would complete four of the five marathons that make up the World Marathon Majors. (This was done before Tokyo became the sixth major in 2013) He would begin looking for a new challenge and decided to compete in the Bear Mountain 50K. "The bear mountain reminded me of being a kid, running for fun, going through the woods. It was very pure running" Stephen would continue to challenge himself, competing in the toughest ultra marathons in the world. From the Western States 100 to the Leadville 100 Stephen would run any Ultra he could.
Stephen has done all of this with diabetes, it is how he responds when asked how he does it all with diabetes, "I made diabetes fit my lifestyle" Stephen made sure he tested forty times in the Leadville 100 to know exactly where he was blood sugar wise while running. "Testing is huge, the more you test the more you know about how you feel."
Stephen is made for Team Novo Nordisk and quickly became my favorite team member. As I was wrapping up my interview with Stephen I asked him what would he say to anyone living with diabetes "DON'T QUIT!! I wanted to quit diabetes at 14, I was told by the doctor I couldn't quit diabetes. Ever since that I can't quit a race because if I do I'm quitting on myself." That short statement changed me as an athlete. I have never quit a race but have shortened workouts when I was feeling fine. In February as a blizzard was hitting the NYC you know who was getting in a training run in Central Park.
Everyone knows my love and passion for Team Novo Nordisk, I had to ask Stephen about the team. I would ask Stephen"How was the Team Novo Nordisk training camp, is it like a big brother relationship where everyone wants to race and beat up on each other?" Stephens response increased more love for the team, "Its not like that at all, we are a family. We care about each other and are always in contact with one another asking how they are doing. We go to each others races and cheer them on, when one person wins we all win. We are a family and have each others back." This was not just a generic Team Novo Nordisk answer, another member of Team Novo Nordisk was with Stephen. He would not be racing but came to hear Stephen speak and keep him company. The team is a family and I had proof right in front of me. I quickly learned that Team Novo Nordisk is not the New York Yankees where one person makes all the money and gets all the attention. Team Novo Nordisk wins and losses as a team, they are truly a family and care for one another.
I had a small taste of that family while interviewing Stephen at the New Jersey Marathon Expo. I would interview Stephen while walking the grounds of Monmouth Park with Stephen and his puppy Miles. As we got to the end of the parking lot our interview had ended, we were a good ten minutes or more from the expo. For the rest of our stroll Stephen and I would talked like we had been good friends for years. He had done his research on me and how I am as a person and athlete. His many words of advice and encouragement will stick with me for a long time. Stephen could have quickly answered my questions in the expo and went on with his day. Unlike many professional athletes he went above and beyond for a blogger, fan of Team Novo Nordisk and fellow diabetic. Thank You Stephen and thank you Team Novo Nordisk for being so great!! You are changing diabetes and giving hope to so many all over the world!!