The Marathon Runner Who Jumps Over All Hurdles
We all get knocked down from time to time -- that's just life. Robin Arzon has perhaps experienced this more times than could be considered her fair share. The story of her life reads like the written account of a heavyweight boxing match that won't end -- because nothing keeps Robin down for very long.
The daughter of immigrant parents, Robin originally planned to follow in her father's footsteps and become an attorney. She chose to get her undergraduate degree at NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Robin didn't take the course load that one may expect of a prelaw student, opting instead to take her father's advice, "You will learn how to be a lawyer in law school, take the classes you want to take."
About a year before she would graduate from Gallatin, Robin met a couple of friends at Bar Veloce in New York's East Village. A casual, fun night out with friends soon turned into a life-altering experience that would propel Robin to a new direction, years later. That night a ranting man armed with three hand guns, a sword, kerosene, a lighter and the desire to "choose when he dies" was out on the street exacting his plan to die in a fire while killing as many people as he could. The gunman approached and shot a man on the street. The wounded man took refuge in the closest place he could find, Bar Veloce, and the gunman followed him into the business. Upon entering the bar the gunman forced all of the patrons, Robin included, into the back where he huddled them together and soaked them in kerosene.
Early on in the confrontation the man spoke of wanting to talk to the police, and Robin served as his line to the police while being held as a human shield. Afraid but not wanting to give up, Robin spent that time trying to talk to the man in the hopes of ending the nightmare. When the police arrived Robin was being held by the madman by her hair, still soaked in kerosene, with a gun and a lighter being held to her head. Two patrons tried to jump the man as he held Robin; one was shot but the commotion of the struggle was enough to allow the police to storm the room and subdue that man.
This harrowing experience took a toll on Robin, but she got back up, graduated, went to law school at Villanova and practiced for seven years at a prestigious firm before making her next decision that flew in the face of conventional wisdom.
It was during law school that Robin found, very much by mistake, her passion for running and fell in love with it. She describes that in the years after much of her time in the law office was spent "counting down the minutes" until she could go for a run. This is all from someone who was made fun of on the playground for how she ran and who was forging notes as a teenager to get out of gym class. Robin then made a choice that not many could, she quit her safe life, one that she worked very hard for, to follow what her heart was saying.
Initially Robin worked at being a freelance sports journalist and had "no idea what I was doing." Robin started a blog, interviewed Olympic athletes with her cracked iPhone and surrounded herself with like-minded people -- kindred spirits who love to sweat.
Robin realized that if you put the work in, you can become whatever you want to be. Robin created a new life as an "Ambassador of Sweat" -- becoming a running coach, cycling instructor and ultramarathoner.
A believer in her mother's words that she is from "resilient stock," Robin says, "Resilience and willpower can seem finite but they can be recharged." Those theories would be tested last year when Robin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 32.
Robin thought she was jet lagged after returning from India with her mother and sister. Her mother, who is a physician, was worried that her symptoms could mean something more and she sent Robin to have blood work. Two days later she had an endocrinologist and was taking insulin to manage her blood glucose. Robin's first thought wasn't why me or what next. Robin isn't the type of person to worry about obstacles, all she wanted to know from her doctor is what tools she would need to be healthy with Type 1 diabetes while being able to continue her life as an athlete. Her doctor put her on an OmniPod insulin pump just days after her diagnosis because of its tubeless design and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor so she could watch her glucose values in real time.
Robin made good use of both tools recently when she finished the New York City Marathon, her fourth marathon with Type 1 diabetes. The NYC Marathon was the first marathon she ever ran, four years ago, and now she says Type 1 diabetes has made her stronger because it has made her more determined to accomplish her goals.
"I really believe we need to trust our struggles," says Robin. "It can be hard to find reason and rationality in a disease like diabetes when you think your body should be doing what it's meant to do but it doesn't. Trust your struggle. There's always light through the cracks. Find inspiration online, from friends and family, from the community, and it will reinforce your power."