In February 2014, Sebastien Sasseville embarked on a project to run across Canada called Outrun Diabetes. A nine months, 7500 km journey (the equivalent of a 180 marathons). This project wasn’t only a personal goal, it was initiated to raise awareness for the diabetes. As a Type 1 Diabetic himself, Seb served as an example that diabetes shouldn’t slow you down in the least. I had the chance to interview Sebastien. I had never met Seb before but right away, I knew it was going to be a pleasant conversation.
I usually put videos toward the end of articles but I put the following one on top. This is Seb finishing his coast-to-coast journey in Vancouver. A truly inspiring moment that will set the tone for the type of person Sebastien is and hopefully make you feel more invested in the following interview. It’s also a great and moving video. I’ve watched it too many times to count.
You’re actually over selling me! I’ve run many ironmans and triathlons but I’ve actually never participated in any official marathons.
Maybe. It’s not in my current plans but I guess it will eventually happen.
Well, they’re all were very different. Each of them had a unique set of challenges making them hard to compare. If I had to choose only one, I would have to go with the Sahara Desert Race. It was only seven days, but the climate made this one so hard.
I started thinking about the idea in late 2012. I spent 2013 building the project and the logistics. The crucial point was the storytelling. I was going to be spending most of my time running outside and alone. I wanted to make sure that we would be able to communicate the journey in a way that would make people invested in it. The adventure had to be documented through video.
From the start, I knew that the project would help diabetes in some way. I can’t say that there was a specific moment or event that really put the project into motion. The possibility of making a positive impact in the world was the motivation.
Not really. You do have to make sure you’re controlling your diabetes. You have to be conscious and careful. With a reasonable amount of care, there aren’t any dangers.
In one of your videos (episode 10) you mention that you might have some permanent injuries. I’m not sure people are conscious of the physical consequences of your run. What are the injuries that might never heal?
It’s really too early to tell. It’s only been four-five months since I got back. I still feel tired. My joints still ache. At this point I wouldn’t say I have any permanent injuries. It’s more like premature usage of my joints. We’ll have to wait and see.
I’m going for a half-ironman next weekend. That will be the first official test and I’m pretty sure it’s going be a hard one.
That being said, I’m still hopeful that I will make a full recovery from the trip.
What was the hardest day of the trip?
The Rockies. There was this one place, the Kootenay Pass, where it was just brutal. I had a 37 km day going uphill. It took over 7 and a half hours. I was alternating between hiking and walking. Without a doubt the hardest day.
The hardest province? I’ve driven across Canada and I know Ontario is a lot bigger than it looks like on the map.
Yeah! From Ste-Marie to the Border of Manitoba. It was very long. Just that part was 1700 km. It took us over a month and a half.
Most memorable moment (excluding start and finish).
It wasn’t one moment in particular. Meeting the families across the country was amazing. Every one of those meetups was unique and memorable in its own way.
We met this one kid who took our number. He would call us every now and then to catch up and make sure we we’re all right. He was awesome.
During a typical day running across Canada, what measures must you take to make sure you’re controlling your diabetes?
In a nutshell: have my insulin pump, check my blood sugar levels about 10 times a day and make the necessary adjustments. You just have to stay conscious of how you’re feeling the whole time.
Going back in time. What was the toughest moment during your first year as a diabetic?
It has already been 13 years since I was diagnosed with diabetes. It was mostly a process of learning about myself. For me, there was a lot of humility involved. At 21 you often have the feeling that you’re invincible. Getting diabetes made me realize that I wasn’t. I had to learn to accept that and learn to work around the disease.
Obviously, you’re in pretty good shape. Were you already leading a healthy lifestyle back then or did it come after learning about diabetes?
I was definitely not in shape like I am today. I was more of your typical university student. Going to school and spending plenty of time at the pub. I started living an active style progressively. I didn’t wake one day and decide I was going to start running ironmans. It was gradual.
You’re brother was diagnosed with diabetes before you were. Did that help you deal with your diagnosis?
A little bit. As a family, it was still a shock to learn that both of us had diabetes. You wonder how this situation can happen. Who’s responsible for this? But in the end it’s once again a lot of humility. Having a brother did help. We both have Type 1 (formerly know as juvenile) diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. It’s a problem related to your immune system. Type 1 diabetes represents around 5 to 10% of the diabetic population.
Type 2 diabetes often develops at an older age (although it is rising in children). Type 2 can often be avoided or at least delayed by leading a healthy and active lifestyle.
How has your run across Canada impacted the research on diabetes?
Running across Canada lead to over 100 media interviews. We held 40 events visited many schools and in total reached over 100 000 people. We were working toward awareness. One thing, we wanted to make sure that we were spreading a positive message. Having diabetes is OK and it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything.
So Seb, now that you’ve conquered Canada, what’s your next project?
Right now on focusing on conferences, keynotes and really the whole business side of my past work. I’ve definitely left the business part of these projects on the side in the past.
I’m currently writing book and have been working on a movie on and off for the last 2-3 years. I’ve been spending a lot of time touring and writing. At the present moment, there are not any physical projects on the horizon.
How far along are you in your book? Can we have some details on it?
I’m about a quarter of the way in. I want to create a book that someone can just pick up, start at any chapter and learn something.
Any favorite books that you would like to share with us?
I actually rarely finish books! Reading for me has always been more about relaxation than learning. I like to pick up a book at the end of a day and just unwind by reading for 30 minutes.
Are you able to find a few titles that have inspired you?
I like Malcom Gladwell. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was one that inspired me. David vs Goliath is another. Right now I’m reading Book Yourself Solidby Michael Port.
Your journey has inspired a ton of people across the nation. Who inspires you? Do you have a role model?
The parents inspire me. All the parents I’ve met on the road last year were a huge inspiration. I know how hard it can be on parents to have a child with diabetes. It’s a lot of work. The love and devotion they show everyday is unbelievable. They are the everyday heroes that helped to keep me going.
Wow. Great answer! As an athlete do you have any sport related role models?
Well, there are a few of endurance athletes that I look up to. But really, I’m inspired by anyone who overcomes great journeys and challenges. Where the reason is bigger than the obstacle. What you believe has to be bigger than your doubts.
WHAT YOU BELIEVE HAS TO BE BIGGER THAN YOUR DOUBTS.
How Smelly does an RV get with two guys over 9 months?
You’d have to ask Patrick that! [Laughs]
I was having a beer with Patrick (cameraman and media partner) yesterday and we were reminiscing and very nostalgic. Although we were working, we were still two guys on an amazing road trip across Canada for nine months. We were busy. We would have what we would call shift one and shift two. The first 8 hours shift was the run and everything that surrounded it. The second shift was taking care of the media, the events and all the calls. Still, we took the time to visit and we enjoyed ourselves. It was a beautiful trip and one that we will never forget.
In one of the episodes on Canoe, you mention that you listened to Podcasts while running. Any suggestions?
I love to listen to the podcast on Nobel Prize Talks. It’s a podcast about Nobel Prize winners. Getting to know these people is such an enriching experience. You realize that a lot of these people have similar personality traits.
Unfortunately, the podcast hasn’t been updated recently.
Sebastien, Thank you for your time, you’ve been amazing. Where can people follow and learn more about you?
People can learn more on www.sebinpires.com or www.sebinspire.com (french). You can learn more about the run at www.outrundiabetes.ca.
As for social media:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/122759195@N06/ This is where I stole all the pictures featured in this article. There are many more and they are stunning.