I can still run.
Here’s the thing about running.
Running doesn’t care if you’re fat or thin, rich or poor. Running doesn’t care if you’re straight or gay, liberal or conservative, whether you live in Africa or the United Kingdom. Running doesn’t care what car you drive, what clothes you wear or if your bum looks big in that. And guess what? Running doesn’t care if you’re a diabetic. Functioning pancreas or not, the road will always welcome you back. And welcome me back it did, in the form of a marathon.
I ran my first marathon on a severe lack of training, two days after having one too many drinks. I’d also just worked 80 hours across the 7 days leading up to race day and would be running with a torn knee ligament. To add insult to injury (pun intended), I’d been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes just two months previously.
The marathon wasn’t about the race, nor was it about the medal at the end. The biggest challenge wasn’t about anyone else on that course. It was about the slow and painful process within me that propelled me to be the best I can be: It was the rain dripping from my face at Mile 1: It was the sweat in my hair at Mile 2 and the aching in my lungs at Mile 4: It was the stitch in my side at Mile 5 and the nausea in my stomach at Mile 7: It was the throbbing of my calves at Mile 19 and the stiffness in my knees at Mile 20: it was the blisters in my feet at Mile 22 and the dryness in my mouth before every drink station: it was the torrential rain at Mile 25: it was being drenched to the bone at Mile 26: But most of all it was the voice inside my head that told me to stop. The voice that argued that there is no valid reason for my body to continue, and wants me to quit. But I didn’t. Even when my blood glucose monitor failed in the rain – I found cover and tested. Even when I had to pause to chug water on top of jelly beans so I didn’t choke on them – I kept going. I ran side by side with other non-diabetic runners. Whilst other runners paused to guzzle water, I tested my blood quickly, and carried on. Whilst other runners were taking their glucose tabs, I had my jelly beans. None of the thousands of runners we raced alongside with knew I was a diabetic, and they didn’t need to. We were all just runners, tackling a distance only 1% of the population had completed. We were all in it together. The day I completed the marathon was the day I realised diabetes wouldn’t prevent me from doing anything I wanted to do with my life. My body may be a little more temperamental these days, but it’s also holds strength I didn’t know possible. And so I run.
Post-marathon, I went for an early run on an empty stomach. I’d been eating low carb for a while, and on this day it appeared as though I had become fat adapted. This means that rather than running on glucose (which I would regularly top up as I ran), I ran on fat. I know this because rather than testing every 20 minutes and needing to consume glucose, my blood sugar levels were steady. Not only that, but I managed to run powerfully and non-stop for over an hour. I’d ran an elevation of 450 metres. I was also running in one of the most spectacular parts of the world – Queenstown, New Zealand. I was running down through the trees along the lake with a view of the Remarkables when I suddenly broke into a grin and tears fell from my eyes. Before diabetes, I ran to feel the fresh air in my lungs and the breeze on my cheeks. I ran to explore the beauty of our world through my footsteps. I ran because it made me love the feeling of living. I cried because I still run now for all of those reasons, and because I can still run.