When it comes to Diabetes, Challenge is greater than Completion
Diabetes can sometimes prevent us from taking part in life’s adventures. However, more often than not it’s fear holding us back rather than diabetes itself. It took a long time for me to trust my diabetic body enough to sign up for any kind of out door running event. In November 2016, I took part in the Queenstown International Marathon. To my surprise I completed the half (21.5km) in two hours and twenty-five minutes. My time didn’t surprise me, but finishing the race did. I had expected to go hypo, start crying, and trip over my own diabetes related fears long before the finish line came into view. Despite this, I still signed myself and my diabetes up and here’s why.
I got it Wrong Before
I found my running feet in 2010, but I didn’t dare run outside. The thought of collapsing in public was too much for me to handle, so I ran on the treadmill with a bag of jelly babies, my insulin and blood tester all within easy reach. My initial goal was to be able to run 3km, but pretty soon I was running 15 – on the treadmill, music blaring, staring at the same skyline the whole way. Yet when friends of mine signed up for much shorter running events, I declined. What if my blood sugars crashed? What if I wiped out? What if an ambulance had to be called because no one knew I was diabetic? What if I died? Today these questions seem ridiculous, but at the time they were real concerns.
Fast forward to 2013 – yes my fears took 3 years to get over – and almost everyone I knew was signing up for the Colour Run in Dubai. If you don’t know already, the Colour Run is a 5k fun race that involves powdered paint fights with every kilometre gained. Friends who had never stepped foot in the gym had signed up for the technicoloured contest.
‘I can’t do it,’ I told my friend.
‘Yes you can. Crawl it if you need to, but you can. And if you can’t, you just stop. It will be over in 45 minutes. At least try – you’ll surprise yourself. Please?’ she replied.
1 km at a Time
The Dubai Colour Run was my first foray into outdoor running with diabetes. When I crossed the finish line covered in multi coloured paint, I revelled in the electrifying feeling of being wrong about my capabilities. Six months later I signed up for the 10k run as part of the Standard Chartered Marathon in Dubai, and surprised myself again. Each extra kilometre I ran outside was a massive achievement for me and my diabetes, and an excellent life lesson that we can almost always do a little bit more than we think we can.
Challenge First, Complete Second
When I sign up for events, I tell myself I am not signing to complete. I am signing to challenge my diabetic heart to go a bit further. It doesn’t matter if I have to ride the quit bus to the finish line (this hasn’t happened so far). Challenging my diabetes is a greater achievement than completing the actual distance. Completion is just the icing on the (no added sugar) cake. So am I ready to run a full marathon? Not yet. I’m happy with my slow steady progress from 3km to 21. I’ll run the half again in Queenstown on the 18th November 2017, and delight in a landscape that is so beautiful you have to pinch yourself to know it’s real. If my diabetes and I are successful a second time, I may just get the confidence to do the full in 2018.
The Free Style Libre Edge
This year I’ll have the added advantage of a Free Style Libre on my arm (God bless everyone involved in making this technology a reality). I’ll now know when to chew on a jelly baby and when it’s ok to push harder. I am hopeful that my Free Style will help me beat not only my time on last year, but my finishing glucose. I finished high at 9.8 mmol. I was ‘hypo’ anxious in the last five k and overdosed on Haribo fizzy cola bottles. With blood glucose knowledge now available in two seconds flat, I shouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Keep Challenging Your Diabetes
If there is something in life you would like to do, but you’re worried your diabetes means you can’t, then start off by doing a tenth of it and keep pushing from there. You can come home early. You can stop the race half way. You can change your flight path, adjust your time-table or call a friend and try again next time. However, you can’t fail because by challenging your diabetes to do that little bit more, you’re already winning.