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In the Running

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 - 10:00 PM

Diane Van Deren Diane Van Deren (Mark Phillips)

Diane Van Deren is one of the best ultra-runners in the world, and it all started with a seizure. In this short, Diane tells us how her disability gave rise to an extraordinary ability.

For Diane Van Deren, a charming mother of three, daily life is a struggle. But as soon as she steps outdoors, she's capable of amazing feats. She can run for days on end with no sleep, covering hundreds of miles in extreme conditions. Reporter Mark Phillips heads to Colorado to get to know Diane, and to try to figure out what makes her so unstoppable.





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Comments [54]

Hermione Grisham

I found this very intresting mostly about a few things. One my dog has a form of Epilepsy, much more mild than that of Diane but still. And second I can barly run three miles let alone one hundred!! That is insane. Diane has over come such amazing obstacle that I could not even imagine trying to decide what to do.

Jan. 26 2015 10:19 PM
Lorelei C. Whitman

Diane Van Deren goes against all odds to become one of the greatest ultra-runners. Running is one of the hardest sports to master and has many amazing health benefits. Hearing this story puts another reminder in my head about how such a natural,simple exercise can aid a person between life and death. Diane Van Deren's story is very impacting because whenever she goes out to run she will always be at a disadvantage to everyone around her. Even knowing this, she never gave up and found unique ways to get around these problems. Being a runner myself, I find this very inspiring because running long distance isn't a easy feat and I couldn't visualize going on the trail knowing I might not be able to find my way. I enjoyed listening to her story about not losing hope and never giving up. Now when trying to finish the 8th mile of my run, I will think of Diane and push myself to the finish line.

Nov. 02 2014 03:30 PM
Muffin Stuffers 123

This story of Diane Van Deren's experience with epilepsy and running was inspiring. It was interesting to hear how she discovered her love for running because of epilepsy. After she had brain surgery, she started to run competitively and won her first 50 mile race. One advantage that she has because of her brain surgery is that she is unaware of the amount of time passing, which helps her mentally when she is running for several days straight. Diane's experience shows how new opportunities and good things can come from difficult times.

Apr. 24 2014 11:09 PM
laoh from Atlanta

Thanks for this story. I was driving home from dinner and pulled a driveway moment. Powerful.

Oct. 07 2013 02:15 PM
Kristine from Eastern WA state

Thank you for this piece. Ironically, I turned the radio on today to listen while I am in the midst of packing to leave my home in WA state and have this same surgery on my left temporal lobe on Tuesday in MA. I felt like this one was just for me. I'm blogging about the experience, so more knowledge gets out there. Thanks again.

Oct. 05 2013 04:24 PM
Philip from Austin, TX

I knew I had epilepsy but I never realized I was still having seizures until I listened to this podcast. I didn't know those little 'deja vu' moments were seizures but now I am getting treated.

I wish there was someway of using this to promote more awareness of this fairly common disorder.

Aug. 05 2012 01:38 PM
Bruce from California

I echo Zahid from Australia's comment regarding Diana's disconnection from time and the importance of this key point. I've been running for 30 years and have found pain, exhaustion and time to be, of course, the greatest inhibiting factors to running long distance. Pain and exhaustion can, to a great extent, be controlled by simply slowing down your pace. The unrelenting passing of time, however, in my opinion, is a mental barrier as great as the other two. I think many runners employ, consciously or unconsciously, a form of meditation to overcome time. In my own case, I mentally recite a mantra over and over and over, hour after hour. It takes me into almost a sleep like state and, although I do not experience a complete lose of time I do cut into it considerably. I can easily imagine how a complete lose of time would enable someone to just run and run and run.

Jun. 28 2012 12:50 AM
Janice Geist from Carr, Colorado

Apparently your podcast has run before, but I just heard it on 6-22-12. None of us knows what we are capable of until we HAVE to do something. And if we can focus - really, really focus -- we can lose our sense of time or exhaustion or hunger, etc. I believe a lot of stories about people who have achieved amazing mental and physical accomplishments when it was "do this or you won't survive". I don't have a story to rival Diane's, but there have been times in my life when I look and honestly can't believe I did something that I know I did. You just do what you have to do.

Jun. 22 2012 10:20 PM
Barry Walton from New York, NY

My name is Barry Walton ~ I am an avid athlete as well as a film maker working on a new film of the making of (arguably) the toughest ultra on earth. I came across your website and your interview with the ultra runner and wanted to contact you to share about my project and inquire about the potential of working together to offer content on a great story and help promote the piece. Here is what is going on:

Two years ago in 2010, I started following the making of the toughest/highest race in the world and have been working for 2 years now to build this piece. Over that time I have researched, traveled to India, filmed, and am now in the midst of editing, structuring, and working to get this finalized and up to a professional level for viewing and festivals. To help I have started a Kickstarter fund raising campaign with plans to raise $5000 in 40-days (or we don't get any of it). The goal here is to help with recreations, further interviews, and editing. Below I am sending you a link where you can view the Kickstarter page with a short (7-minute) video, which has a trailer, further explanation of the project, and a teaser at the end. You will also find further information on the project itself that opens up more of what I am working to do and the rewards of what I am giving back.

All that being said, all forms of help are welcomed, but I would be very interested in the potential of an interview or being part of your program.

Here is the website:
Here is the fundraiser:

Thanks in advance for taking the time to consider.

Best regards,


Jan. 08 2012 01:45 AM
Sandy from USA

Amazing story. This actually isn't the first time I've read about her. Simply incredible.
*"Legal Shield":*

Nov. 24 2011 03:43 PM
Glenda from USA

Diane Van Deren's story was one of those awe-inspiring ones
[b][url=]Legal Shield[/url][/b]

Nov. 24 2011 03:36 PM

Diane Van Deren really inspired me after listening to her story. She was really lucky after that surgery she came out with minor problems. My aunt had a surgery on her brain fifteen years ago and as a result of that she was paralyzed for life. She is still alive but cannot do anything. Thank God for Diane, she got out of the surgery with minor problem.

Agile Intellects

Nov. 02 2011 11:04 PM

Diane Van Deren really inspired me after listening to her story. She was really lucky after that surgery she came out with minor problems. My aunt had a surgery on her brain fifteen years ago and as a result of that she was paralyzed for life. She is still alive but cannot do anything. Thank God for Diane, she got out of the surgery with minor problem.

Nov. 02 2011 11:03 PM


My husband saved this podcast for me to listen to, because my story is similar in that I have lupus and the only thing that consistently keeps my lupus at bay is to run. And when I don't get a chance to run for a week, I hurt all over. Weird how one type of stress on the body (running) can make the other stresses on the body (lupus) dissolve.

Jul. 26 2011 11:23 AM
Mike from Colorado

To Cat from Atlanta:
I think this is the problem with the story. Dianes time in the Georgetown to Idaho springs 13.1 Mile race is 2:05:46, which is 9:30 per mile. I would think that 13.1 would be a training run, if not an extremely short training run for someone like Diane. Additionally that race descends 1000 feet over the 13.1 miles which is something like a 1.5% grade. This is a very fast course, so my confusion is even if Diane entered that race as a training run, and did not plan to run it hard, why was she incapable of running what she claimed was a training pace. So, as a sceptic I would have to say "What gives?" Maybe race directors only posted race results to the internet in which she had poor races.

I am a huge fan of running, I used to do it myself when I was younger, and I love to find athletes from Colorado to cheer for. But when I actually started looking at Dianes results I felt like she had overstated her case as an athlete on many levels.

Jul. 23 2011 09:54 PM
RMBros from DFW Sprawl

I'm a big fan of the show and stories like this make it clear why I am.

My Grandmother, who is 90 and in no way a runner, lost that timekeeping piece of her brain to a small stroke during surgery.

Now, through a story that seemed to have no relation to her at all, I can get a small hint of what her world is like.

Thanks for the story, the insight, and the inspiration!

Jul. 07 2011 06:27 AM
Stephanie Appiah from Virginia

I'm running the Marine Corps Marathon, and raising money for the Epilepsy Therapy Project. Diane's story just made the work of these projects so much more important, and it really cheers me up to know that running is a kind of therapy. It can help, and the support it brings is really really powerful.
I'm also looking for sponsors, so if you are thinking about ways to help, donate to my page! One click to donate! Lives to save!

Jun. 14 2011 10:33 AM
Jill from Idaho

I just listened to the podcast and I didn't get the impression that she ran the ultras at an 8 minute mile pace, just that she knew the rhythms of different paces and happened to be running an 8 minute mile at the time of the interview. I was amazed at her strategy to compensate for not being able to read a map. What a great segment.

Jun. 01 2011 11:14 PM
Cat from Atlanta

To Mike from Colorado,
I am no runner, but I think what we heard was her demonstrating how her running works and how pacing works, etc., as she was on the (presumably short) demo run with the reporter. So the clip may have been an 8 minute mile, but she probably knows other rhythms for other speeds and adjusts as needed in races.

May. 21 2011 12:16 AM
Ernie from Langley events center - Langley

I am a stroke survivor who had to deal with a whole list of disabilities and seizures as well. This is my story.

All I have to say is give it your best and when that is gone, give it your all!

May. 16 2011 11:16 PM
Ralph from New Buffalo, MI

Runner's World magazine (and web site) ran a very good article about Diane in the Feb 2011 issue.

May. 16 2011 03:09 PM
Mike from Colorado

As a runner myself I was a little confused at Dianes comment that she just finds her own pace of 8 min/mile and goes off of that. I am confused because that seemed really fast for an ultra-run. That would be 100 miles in the mountains of Colorado in 13 hrs and 20 min (8 min/mile X 100 miles).

I looked up the results of the world record for 100 miles and found that the record, set by Bernd Heinrich run on the TRACK was only 12 hours and 27 minutes ( Around 7 min 30 sec/mile.

The current records for the Leadville 100 - one of Colorado's most popular trail 100 milers are 15:42 for men, and 18:06 for women ( Diane has finished this run herself in 27:49 min.

I'll grant that running pace is separate from finishing time in that you could run at 8 min/mile for a period and then stop to deal with normal biological needs like eating & relieving which add to finishing time with affecting "normal" pace as one runs. But Dianes best 100 mile run (Big Horn Mountain 2006) was completed in 27:43, average of over 16 minutes per mile. That would mean Diane would have had to have spent 1 hour lost or resting for every hour she was running the course...

I have to say that I felt that in this case the story was highly embellished to make it seem more dramatic, which detracted from the truly dramatic part which (in my opinion) was her decision to have a large piece of her brain removed, balancing that risk against the risks and maladies of living with the epilepsy.

May. 15 2011 01:45 PM
Patty from Lima, Ohio

Diane- You are an inspiration! I am a football coach of an 8th grader who suffered such severe seizures that they gave him 2 strokes to stop the seizing! He is trying to start his life over and very discouraged. I wish I could have you contact him somehow for some encouragement! If only you could make some type of contact to me????? Not sure if you see the comments on this sight! Please help! email-

May. 12 2011 12:01 AM
David Lawrence from West Palm Beach, FL

Keep on running Diane! Your achievements
also make others aware of epilepsy.
I teared up a few times listening to this story.
Esp. the part where she was seizing.
My sister died from an epileptic seizure 15 years ago. So few people understand that the disease can take a life. Thanks to the radio lab guys! Love your show.

May. 05 2011 09:24 PM
Lisa from Indianapolis, IN

I had my first seizure four months ago. They haven't diagnosed me with epilepsy because I haven't had another seizure and they couldn't find a specific cause. But I'm considered at risk.

I also just started running and have been training for a half marathon. This had me in tears. You are my new inspiration, Diane!!!

Apr. 28 2011 06:20 PM
Josh Rosenblatt

I'm 52 and just started running again about a year ago. This story has given me such inspiration. Thank you for publishing it.

Apr. 27 2011 02:01 PM

As an out-of-shape runner who hasn't ran in a few years, the sound of running and breathing at the end of the podcast actually brought a tear to my eye. It was the PERFECT ending. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

Apr. 19 2011 09:09 PM
Rafael from Brazil

The download is working now. Thanks!

Apr. 17 2011 08:57 PM

Diane mentioned a tingling sensation or aura before her seizure. Before a migrain I experience a dejavu, tingling giddiness and I know I have about 30 min before the pounding pain starts. Previously I would eat a chocolate bar, take 800mg of ibuprofen and try to sleep it off in a dark room. Lately I take sumitriptan and my whole scalp goes tingly and the is only an echo of the migrain, but I'm also a runner (16 marathons) so I'm going to try running when I next get the aura.

Apr. 17 2011 01:36 PM

This story is interesting, and joins a great body of other amazing stories of what people have accomplished with temporal lobe epilepsy and other conditions. Some believe that Marcel Proust's epic memory was a result of this condition. Oliver Sack's wrote a memorable essay about an artist who could reproduce accurate aerial representations of his hometown, despite a 30 year absence and having never flown over it in his life!

Apr. 17 2011 12:03 PM
rob from Baton Rouge

Diane's condition closely mirrors the plot of Joshua Ferris' novel The Unnamed. The main character is not running because of an impending seizure but is running because of an undiagnosed medical condition. He has to stay prepared to run at any moment and his disappearances cause distress in his life. I wonder if Ferris heard Diane's story and used it as source material.

Apr. 16 2011 04:57 PM
Ryan from grand island, ny

just noticed this was 1 year from the limits episode. exactly.

Apr. 13 2011 11:44 PM
Ryan from Grand Island, NY

"we should always know that we can do anything" -Jón Þór Birgisson

i loved this episode and the limits one. they give me so much inspiration to just keep running. and keep trying-- whatever the ultra is.

life is an endurance sport too!

Apr. 13 2011 09:26 AM
Brandon from Kentucky

I live for your pod casts.

Amazing perspective.

Thank you as always!

Apr. 12 2011 08:51 PM
Katy Huff from Madison, WI

Diane mentioned 'flow'. She seemed to mean something similar to what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has described as this immersion in an energized focus. I would love (love love love) to hear an episode dedicated to this concept and its scientific validity or invalidity.

Also, thank you for this episode. I suddenly wish I had my running shoes here in my office today.

Apr. 12 2011 12:27 PM
Sam Van Eman from Pennsylvania

Another great episode. Thanks for finding these remarkable stories.

I also enjoyed the write-up in the NY Times.

Apr. 11 2011 10:38 PM
JimW from Atlanta

Ironically, as I listened to this podcast on my long run Sunday, I got so absorbed I lost my way! With no pink ribbons, I had to ask a passerby for directions. Keeps up the good work.

Apr. 11 2011 07:25 AM
Zahid from Australia

What fascinated me most was that her amazing achievements seem to be the result of disconnecting with the notion of time! Yes, physical and mental stamina are required to run marathons (I’m a runner myself) but I just cannot get over the fact that maybe, just maybe, the close and tight sense of time we all have could be holding us back from realizing our full potentials. It is commonly known that great achievers will work at their art/trade for many hours without rest or sleep, seemingly tapping into a huge reserve of energy (potential and kinetic!). Surely this must have some connection with a loss of the sense of time. I feel more research should be done into Diane’s case because it is just too important to ignore.

Apr. 10 2011 04:07 AM
Margie from VA

It is amazing and humbling to know what people can do. Great episode!

Apr. 08 2011 08:34 PM
Pre from NYC

Listened to this twice! My dream is to run an ultra. Running is definitely what makes my brain work too, but for lesser reasons. :)

On a separate note (har) - Diane has a lovely voice - she should be the voice of a digital running book! Team up with Murakami or Jurek perhaps??

Apr. 08 2011 04:29 PM
Jessica from Chicago, IL

You guys are lovely - I've been listening to you constantly for the last month and a half. I'm an elementary teacher and every once in awhile I give some illuminating info to my students. Thanks for perking up my kiddos - we think you're great!!

Apr. 08 2011 08:56 AM
Alice Sato from Boulder, CO

Re: missing brain tissue. Immediately after surgery there will be some air trapped within the skull, which will be absorbed and replaced by cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), produced by the choroid plexus.

Apr. 07 2011 10:05 PM
Maine Rainbowmaker

Enough of the filling the hole with packing peanuts or just slumping over comments. This is nothing to joke about! The missing chunk of brain just leaves a hole that stays a hole and is a black spot on a MRI. I gave a piece of my mind to the Harvard Brain Bank where it is kept in a freezer. My big concern is that somebody might put a popsicle stick in it, call it "brain food" and give it to a med. student for a snack.

Apr. 07 2011 09:57 PM
Bill Maier from Bath, Maine

Thank You!!! I am not alone in the totally new reality I live in which I call Spiritual Never Never Land. Spinal meningitis fever convulsions beat up my right temporal lobe when I was a child. 50+ years later, 4/15/08 I had my last siezure being wheeled into the OR for a temporal/hippocampal lobectomy.Now seizure free. Skiing is my power meditation and I just got back from Sugarloaf.Mt. . Total focus in the now and lock into the right hemisphere and I keep from going insane I understand everything you have been thru. Bless You.

Apr. 07 2011 08:38 PM
Bill Maier from Bath, Maine

I completely understand what you went thru and why your running meditation takes you where it does. My brain damage to the right temporal lobe was from spinal menengitis, fever convultions. After a temporal/hippocampus lobectomy, 4/15/08 I am seizure free for the first time in 40 years. My last seizure was when I was being taken in to the OR. Just returned from skiing. The intense focuslocks me into the right hemisphere of my brain, and is necessary to keep me from going insane. A design engineer I am no longer. We should talk!! We both understand our new realities.

Apr. 07 2011 08:23 PM
dread pirate clinton

When they remove a kiwi-sized part of your brain, what do they put in its place? Does the rest of the brain just slump in to fill the hole? Do they stuff it with packing peanuts?

Apr. 07 2011 07:38 PM
dread pirate clinton

When they remove a kiwi-sized part of your brain, what do they put in its place? Does the rest of the brain just slump in to fill the hole? Do they stuff it with packing peanuts?

Apr. 07 2011 07:36 PM
gottatryit from VA

Great podcast! I just ran in the National Marathon and can only start to appreciate what it takes to run 50+ miles at a time. She is definitely an inspiration. Check out my running blog:

Apr. 07 2011 05:57 PM
Lisa Smith-Batchen

Awesome...Diane is one amazing, beautiful person...she inspires me to do better:)

Apr. 07 2011 01:55 PM
Ryan from Indiana

Incredible and amazing story!

Apr. 07 2011 11:36 AM
So so sad! from Austin

I really want to listen to this story but the RL website won't play it in either IE or Firefox. Then I tried to download the podcast on iTunes and it won't go! What gives??? You can't tease us with a super interesting story and then have your website crap out! JAD AND ROBERT, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS UP WITH THIS LADY!!!

So please fix your bug asap. -Thnx

Apr. 06 2011 11:44 PM
So so sad! from Austin

I really want to listen to this story but the RL website won't play it in either IE or Firefox. Then I tried to download the podcast on iTunes and it won't go! What gives??? You can't tease us with a super interesting story and then have your website crap out! JAD AND ROBERT, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT IS UP WITH THIS LADY!!!

So please fix your bug asap. -Thnx

Apr. 06 2011 11:43 PM
rick from alabama

Apr. 06 2011 06:45 PM
Lorenzo from Venice, Italy

Great episode! I really appreciated this :)
Keep up the good work

Apr. 06 2011 05:03 PM

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