World-class triathlete Ryan Jones doesn’t let diabetes slow him down

When you’ve been at something to test your competitive will for as long as Ryan Jones has, you’re not going to let a little something like Type 1 diabetes ruin the show, right?

No sir. That would just be an excuse and Jones – who helps design modifications on nuclear power plants from 9 to 5 and ranks among the world’s top ironman triathletes and ultramarathoners in his spare time – isn’t one of those looking for an alibi.

The Yardley resident was diagnosed with the disorder way back when he was just eight years old so coping with the situation has become almost a way of life.

Rather than let the condition get the best of him, he’s gotten the best of it. . .not only posting some of the fastest times in the country but leading a charity group to help fight this health problem.

Now, some 31 years later, he’s capable of running an incredible 222 miles in a 72-hour race or handle the standard ironman 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in rather routine fashion.

Aside from taking an occasional insulin shot in the middle of a race to control his blood sugar index, he hardly gives it a thought.

“I raced for a team called Team Type 1,’’ says the Scranton native. “And another called Diabetes Sports Project.

“It’s all about awareness and taking that stigma away – that you can do anything you want even if you have this.’’

Jones believes it’s important to interact with other young diabetics at camps and hospitals because there are so many questions to be answered.

“It means a lot to me,’’ he explains, “ because when I was younger, my biggest question was: ‘What do I need to get ready for a marathon?’ Doctors were like: Well if you’re going to run a 5K. . .and I’m like, I’m actually going to run a marathon or a 50-mile race.

“Right now, I feel it’s important to be there and be a tool for someone to lean on and give advice to somebody, training tips or just be there. Be a role model for kids who are 10, 12, 13 who are afraid to do something because of low blood sugar.’’

On an average day, Ryan will take between five and six shots.

Of course, many want to know how he can perform at such a high level given this health hurdle.

“Diabetics ask questions: A lot of times I’ll get a question in the middle of a 100-mile race,’’ he says. “They see me taking a shot and they go, “You’re a diabetic? You’re doin’ this?’ Stuff like that.’’

With a chuckle, Jones points out that he isn’t the “highest’’ achiever on his training teams.

“We have a group of us that are pretty diversified,’’ he smiles. “One has climbed Mt. Everest.’’

Did someone say role model?

“I didn’t get introduced to athletes until I was in my mid-20s,’’ Jones says. “It was eye-opening to see that were others trying to do what I was doing.’’

In super-long races, like the 72-hour odyssey, Jones has hit the proverbial “wall.’’ But he’s loathe to put any of it on diabetes.

“I never use it as an excuse,’’ he maintains. “It’s a challenge but I don’t know any better. I don’t know what it’s like to race without it.’’

As a chemical engineer, Jones manages a small consulting company that takes on big projects.

“We put together a team,’’ he says. “Let’s say it’s a $50-million cooling tower modification at Limerick or nearby. We’re estimating, planning for the project.’’

Back in the day, Jones ran track at Riverside High School in Scranton, competing mostly in the 800 and 1500 meters, along with cross country.

At Rider University, he met his future wife, Robin. They now have a four-year-old son, Grayson, who, of course, is already into swimming and biking.

Cycling for Ryan came along after college. Then swimming and finally the triathlon.

“That was kind of my thing,’’ he says. “I wasn’t a super-fast runner but for some reason I was able to run fast off the bike when I was younger.’’

While he has enjoyed plenty of success in the Ironman, all the way up to the World Championships in Hawaii, a lot of his focus is now on ultra running. The two events go hand in hand

“I was struggling with my run in the Ironman,’’ he says. “I thought, what way can I make a marathon faster? Or easier. I’ll just run ultramarathons. 50K, then 50-miler. My first 100-miler, back in 2007. Since then I’ve done 20, 21 100-mile races.’’

He has his 100-mile time down to just over 15 hours.

Jones has a good association with Michael Joseph, who operates Firehouse Cycles in Yardley and is one of a number of sponsors for the upcoming Bucks County Duathlon on Sept. 2.

According to Jones, smaller local races have a prominent place in the multi-sport community.

“It’s great to have local races, especially something so easy to get to,’’ he says. “It’s for a good cause. It’s always costly to find a race elsewhere. To have something in your backyard, so close to home for a good cause is always a great thing.

“You get people who are there just to have fun and you also get people who are competitive.’’

Race calendar

Saturday, Aug. 4

Running to the Bull 1.5-Miler, 12 noon, Croydon. Contact

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About Wayne Fish 2437 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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