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Former Olympian doesn’t let diabetes slow his trek over the West Coast Trail

Chris Jarvis completes demandingVancouver Island trail in 32 hours
Chris Jarvis completed the West Coast Trail in 32 hours, despite dealing with Type 1 diabetes. (Veritas/Contributed)

Anyone remotely familiar with the demands of the West Coast Trail is readily aware it takes from six to eight days to complete the 75-kilometre journey.

That Chris Jarvis completed the hike along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island in 32 hours is remarkable enough. But handling the challenges the rugged terrain trail can throw your way while coping with Type 1 diabetes raises his accomplishment to a whole other level.

Although he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1994, that didn’t stop Jarvis from competing in top-tier rowing events for 10 years, including representing Canada in the Summer Olympics in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008. He also earned a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Rio in 2007 in between those events.

“I chose the challenge of the West Coast Trail to provide some hope to folks who may be having difficulty adapting to diabetes,” Jarvis explained. “Every person who hikes that trail has to prepare for uncertainty and plan carefully, and that’s what life with diabetes is like.”

He thought it was fitting to tackle the trail when it opened in May because this year marks the 30th anniversary of his diagnosis.

“You have to carry your bag with everything you need for 75 kilometres,” Jarvis noted when asked about some of the more difficult demands. “Planning my safety medically and being prepared to deal with temperatures dropping to 4 degrees and uncertain weather was also key. One of the first ladders on the trail was missing two rungs, so you’re basically climbing down two storeys with your backpack.”

Word of what Jarvis accomplished spread much faster than he had anticipated.

“I heard from people from around the world who saw what I did on social media,” he said. “Some of them who had very nasty experiences on that trail were absolutely amazed at what I did.”

Jarvis said it was “most important” to include that although he didn’t have perfect control of his diabetes, he was able to monitor his glucose levels with a Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system.

Jarvis launched I Challenge Diabetes after people with diabetes started reaching out to him in 2007. The national initiative received charitable status in 2011, and hosts sports camps in different parts of the country, including Victoria and other locations on Vancouver Island.

“It started out in Victoria as a grassroots effort,” Jarvis said. “I wanted to inspire people to continue to overcome the daily challenges of dealing with diabetes, and hope to show anyone facing medical challenges that they can accomplish great things with the proper preparation.”

Although he’s currently based in Coldwater, Ont., the community of Sooke remains a special place for Jarvis.

“Sooke’s a beautiful spot and I really enjoy the people and the hiking camps we do there.”

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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