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A walking inspiration

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'Iron Andy' Holder visits future pharmacists at Husson University

BANGOR - Husson University pharmacy students got a dose of inspiration last week when seven-time Ironman competitor Andy Holder of Philadelphia stopped by campus to share his story of how to live an active and productive life with Type 1 diabetes.

"As a pharmacist, you have the ability to be a savior to those with diabetes," Holder said to the students. "There are millions and millions that need your help."

At 36, this father of two found out he had Type 1 diabetes, a disease that is usually found in juveniles. With no previous family history of the disease, Holder was shocked by the diagnosis.

"I didn't want diabetes as a father or husband to limit me or affect my children in any way," he explained.

So this natural-born athlete found a way to continue his physical fitness regiment while actively checking his blood sugar levels and insulin needs. Diabetes also drove Holder to challenge himself to try something he'd never done before, an Ironman competition.

If it [an Ironman competition] was easy, no one would do it and no one would care. I wanted to do it to inspire my kids, and other people and kids with diabetes," he said.

An Ironman triathlon consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and then running another 26.2 miles for a total of 140.6 miles. The only problem was, Holder had to learn how to swim first. After spending months at his local YMCA pool, he got the hang of it and then entered into his first competition in Lake Placid. He finished the 2006 competition with a time of 13 hours, 39 minutes and 42 seconds. Now, five years later, he's competed in a total of seven Ironman competitions.

"I look at diabetes as a competition. I don't like being told what to do, and diabetes has the potential to tell you what to do every second of your life," he said. "Whether you have a disease or not, you need to be proactive with your health and wellness."

Helping improve the public's health and wellness is why Husson student Andy Exley is studying to be a pharmacist.

"Andy is an excellent example of someone who has taken control of their condition and is managing their disease," Exley said, "As student pharmacists we're here to offer hope and I not only want to be an expert in drugs and promote health and wellness, I also want to be there to answer questions people may have, whether it be diet, exercise tips or how to use glucose devices."

"Iron Andy" even took the opportunity to get in a little exercise with the pharmacy students during his visit. He led them in a one-mile walk around campus, the first mile of many the students plan to cover during their 'Walk to New Orleans' project. The project is a virtual walk that challenges the 100 members of the APhA chapter to cover 1,763 miles collectively; that's the distance from Maine to New Orleans, where their national APhA conference will be held in March.

"If each member walks 17 miles, we can get there," Exley said. "We're happy to have Andy lead."

To find out where "Iron Andy" Holder will be speaking or competing next, log onto

Last modified on Friday, 16 December 2011 11:18


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