I discovered running at the age of 9 thanks to a wonderful coach who volunteered at my primary school. She was great at encouraging everyone, no matter what their natural talent was and empowered us to find our own strengths. I was never a fast runner but that didn’t matter. I learned to love running because it made me feel powerful. (Plus, the cross country team at school was the one team with out tryouts – everyone was welcome!) I ran less in my early university years because I was sick a lot (with what I now know was undiagnosed CD and then undiagnosed diabetes).
After my diabetes diagnosis, I got very serious about exercise and went to the gym 4-5 times a week. But I didn’t take up running again for about 3 years. I found running particularly tricky in terms of blood sugar balance. I really struggled with lows at first and trying to prevent those post-run lowsÂ was one of my main motivations to get an insulin pump. I wanted to have more control on my insulin doses to be able to run more often and longer distances without sacrificing stable glucose levels. In that first year on a pump, I ran my first 5k race (in a decade), my first 10k race and my first half marathon. I was hooked. Over the next 5 years I did several 5 and 10k races, 4 more half marathons and the big prize: one marathon.
I was super proud of my accomplishments and even prouder of how well I was managing to balance my running AND my diabetes. Then life got in the way of running. I was busy. Planned a wedding. Bought and renovated our home. Had two kids. Anyone who has done it can confirm that balancing pregnancy and diabetes is like a marathon in itself! So during those years, my runs were sporadic at best.
After my second daughter was born, I wanted to get back at it but I had loads of excuses to delay. I breastfed for a long time and wasn’t sure how to handle the bouncing lactating boobs. My 2nd was not as great a sleeper as my 1st and I was chronically exhausted. When I went back to work, figuring out work/life balance was particularly stressful for me. All of these are probably reasons I should have used to start running again, but I let them work against my desire to lace up my shoes.
There was also one factor that was entirely diabetes related. When I was marathon training, I only had to worry about me and my diabetes. In the meantime, my family had become my top priority and it was hard trying to prioritise diabetes management and my own fitness into that mix. Plus, a new fear of exercise lows had wormed its way into my brain. I just didn’t want to have to deal with extra lows on top of everything else so the simplest solution was not to exercise!
But I had gained some kilos after having lost all of my pregnancy weight. And I know how good regular exercise is for physical and mental health and how good it can make you feel. So bit by bit I gathered the courage over the past year and started running again. Slow. Steady. Easy pace. I’m not out to win races, but then again, I never was. I gathered motivation where I could find it. I installed Run Keeper on my phone. I increased my goal for steps on my pedometer. My husband and planned our weeks so we knew who could run when. I tried running first thing in the morning before breakfast and was amazed at how stable blood glucose levels can be when exercising on an empty stomach and with no bolus-on-board.
But there is one thing that has recently boosted my confidence and my desire to actually become a runner again (because even though I’ve been running more on than off for the last 10 months I still haven’t quite reached a point where I feel “legit”).
Here in Paris we have a “Café Diabète” once a month. It’s a laid back support group for people with diabetes. Family and friends are welcome too. Each month there is a different theme and last month it was diabetes and sports – not just physical activity, but actually taking things to the next intensity level. Of the people who came, one did 5 marathons this year; another had recently attempted a 100+km trail race. I loved hearing theirs stories, their motivation, their tips on balancing food, exercise and blood sugar while putting their minds and bodies to the test.
I have never let diabetes hold me back from anything I wanted to accomplish. And I have run one marathon so I know I CAN do this. But sharing the goals, the struggles and the successes with others who are striving for similar things brings a whole new level of motivation. I’ve been running more consistently since our Café Diabète a few weeks ago and I feel really good about it. I’m not out to run 7500 km in 9 months or to become an IronMan (woman?). What I would like to do is solidify my exercise routine and I know that running is the sport for me based on how I feel after coming in from a run – even if it’s only 5 or 7 km. And I will make sure to surround myself with the support and motivation that comes from others who are in the same boat. I want to become a runner again for myself, but also for my daughters to grow up seeing the strength that comes with physical fitness.