In the UK, there was a diabetes blog theme of “I can…” that participants found wonderfully empowering. So lets kick things off this year by looking at the positive side of our lives with diabetes. What have you or your loved one accomplished, despite having diabetes, that you weren’t sure you could? Or what have you done that you’ve been particularly proud of? Or what good thing has diabetes brought into your life? (Thank you to the anonymous person who submitted this topic suggestion.)
This August, I’ll be running in the Ragnar Great River.
What’s a Ragnar?
It’s a two day 200-mile relay race that goes from Winona, Minnesota through eastern Wisconsin and then back over the St. Croix River and then ends here in Minneapolis.
Don’t worry, I’m running it with 11 other people and we run 3 legs of varying lengths, somewhere between three and eight miles. While I haven’t been assigned my official legs yet, I’ll be running somewhere between 13 and 17 miles total, so just a little bit longer than a half marathon.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m running it with Team JDRF and we are the first official JDRF team to run a Ragnar! The team is mix of people with diabetes as well as friends and family members who just want to get involved for a good cause. I’m super pumped about it!
Of course, I wasn’t always so excited about running a relay race. In fact, I wasn’t always excited about running period. Or exercise for that matter.
One thing that I often hear from people who are thinking about exercise is their struggle with blood sugars. Having to eat to prevent low blood sugars. Overdoing it on basal reductions and having high blood sugars. Plus dealing with crazy blood sugar drops hours after you’ve finished exercising. Most of the time it seems like it would be so much easier if we just didn’t exercise!
I was definitely one of those kinds of people when I was growing up. Not only did I find exercise totally uncomfortable, but I didn’t understand the impact that it had on my bloods sugars. It seemed safer just to avoid it entirely. But I also knew that it was good for me, not just because of the diabetes but because of the other physical benefits that comes from regular exercise. We’ve all read the stories about how sitting is the new smoking!
I also started to admire people who were physically active. My friends who ran regularly or played sports always seemed so excited and passionate about what they were doing. I was envious of their enthusiasm. I wanted to love something like that too.
I started and stopped various kinds of exercise — including running — many, many times. And time and again I had the same issues with my blood sugars, which would compel me to quit.
I’ve had it. I’m not dealing with this. My blood sugars are probably better if I don’t exercise, I’d think.
But I also realized that I liked making what modest progress I did when I would start running. Going father. Going faster. It was amazing to see what my body was capable of achieving, even though I’m certainly not amazing! Eventually I kept going. And going. And going.
What I learned from that is that you don’t get better at doing something by not doing it. You have to do what you’re struggling with in order to move through it. You have to put in the work. It’s hard, but I learned that I could do it. I can do it. I’m doing it. I’m going to keep doing it. In fact, I don’t just have the Ragnar to look forward to…
In July, I’ll be running my second half marathon, and in October, I will be running the Twin Cities Marathon — my very first marathon! Woohoo!
Even though it has taken a lot of work, I stick with running because I know that it helps my physically. It also helps me emotionally to know that I am accomplishing something that “normal people” can do. Yes, I’m frustrated and sad sometimes that it takes so much extra work. But I also get so excited when I finish a run with perfect blood sugars, knowing that I not just can run (which is hard enough as it is!) but I can also balance the diabetes aspect of things. I love knowing I can do it and that I’m not letting diabetes tell me whether or not I can do something! It always feels so incredibly empowering and kick-ass, if I do say so myself.
And to finish up the first blog post of this year’s Diabetes Blog Week, I’m going to plug the fundraising that I’m doing for Team JDRF and the Ragnar Great River (which is 95 days away! Eek!). Because I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for 21 years, my goal is to raise $2100! You can head over to my personal fundraising page if you’re interested in supporting my efforts.