Brandon Wheeler, a 2018 Stoughton High School graduate, spent a chunk of his 20th birthday running the Chicago Marathon.
He wasn’t just running to test his endurance or to compete against friends. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh sophomore made it a mission to run his second marathon for his girlfriend, Lace Crary, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
Wheeler joined Team Diabetes of the American Diabetes Association. He raised more than $1,750 for diabetes research and the team raised about $140,000.
“One of my goals as I continue running is to complete the six major marathons,” he said. “She (Crary) and some people think I’m crazy running it on my birthday. I wanted to check it off my bucket list. It was more a sense of joy and accomplishment for me to push my body to see what I could do. Having that motivation, knowing that I was running for the cause affected me and made it easier.”
Crary and Wheeler’s parents cheered him on as he finished the 26.2-mile race Sunday, Oct. 13, in Grant Park.
“When I was running and wondering why I’m running 26 miles, it made me remember why I was doing it,” he said. “It made it easier because I was running for more than myself.”
About two years ago, Crary dealt with nauseous spells and would be in a constant groggy state, Wheeler said.
“We thought she just came down with a bug or cold,” he said.
After seeing a doctor, Crary was informed of increased blood sugar levels of more than 400. Type 1 diabetes attacks the immune system by destroying cells in the pancreas used to make insulin. According to the Mayo Clinic, only 5% of those diagnosed with diabetes have Type 1. The disease can lead to increased blood sugar, dehydration and weight loss. Insulin injections are used to control blood sugar.
The diabetes diagnosis was not a complete shock for Crary since she had a genetic link; her father has Type 1 diabetes.
Wheeler said the biggest adjustment for Crary was not being able to eat freely. She had to monitor the number of carbohydrates in her food in addition to doses of insulin.
“You don’t really have the luxury of getting a snack when you want to,” he said. “Anything she would eat along with her dosage could throw her numbers out of whack.”
Wheeler ran track and cross country at Stoughton. He was a state track qualifier in the 1,600-meter relay his senior year in 2018. He considered going out for cross country at Oshkosh.
“They run 8K in college and I wanted to run longer distances,” he said.
He and Crary often go on short 5K runs together. She was on a competitive cheer team in Madison in high school, and now serves as a cheer team coach.
Wheeler competed in his first marathon — the Madison Marathon — in the fall of 2018. He plans to run a half marathon in Milwaukee this winter and the Madison Marathon again next fall.
The other marathons on his bucket list are ones in Boston, New York City, Berlin, London and Tokyo.
Wheeler is a graphic design major and advertising minor at Oshkosh. He runs about 40 to 50 miles per week, and mixes in swimming, biking and interval speed workouts to his training.
“I think I owe a lot to my cross country coach in high school because we would go on 10-mile runs that built my endurance,” Wheeler said. “Track and cross country really helped give me the power to get through the tough times.”