Runners don’t smile at you when you pass them—a sign, I always thought, of why you shouldn’t add running to your life.
Aye, that painful grimace tells you all you need to know… Running is a fool’s game; its rewards are not worth the pain. If you’re not built for distance slogging—i.e. Kenyan skinny—give anything other than a dash for the bus a miss.
Some foolish notion, however, made me take running up once more at the end of last year. And it was okay. I didn’t grin madly at people, but I got the runner’s high. Albeit, the buzz doesn’t last long enough to justify the effort you put in.
And I got to listen to a lot of podcasts. “This is learning by osmosis, EB!” I said to myself. I picked worthy ones, such as those designed to help me improve my writing career. If I just listened to what the gurus told me why bother putting any of it in place? The lessons would all filter through subconsciously. Sales would result! [Spoiler alert—not so far.]
Then I thought entering the Glasgow half-marathon would be fun. Which it was, in January—y’know, when it was months away. And now the end of April hurtles ever nearer and I’m no further forward than eight and a half kilometres (five miles), less than half the distance. Woe!
I’ve upped my game. The five miles feels like an achievement, seeing as I haven’t pushed beyond three in years. My training plan, thus, is add one kilometre every week to the big run and run another two 5ks a week. Do Pilates once a week to stop self seizing up.
As for tempo training, HIIT stuff and dragging myself up and down hills and all that other serious runner stuff, forget it.
Goal? Half-marathon completion, even if it means walking some of the distance.
Running with type 1 diabetes is challenging. Any endurance exercise is. As well as dealing with breathing, effort, aching legs and all that, we battle see-sawing blood sugars not only during the run but afterwards too.
Blood sugar levels that are too high make you tired and exercise will often send them soaring higher. When your sugar levels dip too low, tiredness happens too, you’re at risk of collapsing and you need to eat.
Here’s what I’ve learned…
- The best runs are when I’ve had level blood sugars all day.
- Hike bars—the Aldi cheap version of a protein bar—are brilliant running fuel. I have half of one before, half afterwards. The raspberry one is nicer than the cocoa one.
- I’ve a talent for finding routes that are treadmill flat. And sticking to them.
- A runner’s backpack is worth buying. I ran my last half-marathon, clutching a bag of jelly babies and my blood sugar equipment in my sweaty hand. If you’ve ever run holding something in your hand, you’ll know how irritating it is. By the end of the race, the jelly babies had morphed into a gelatinous mass.
- Your Fitbit shows you getting fitter as the time I’m spending in peak heart rate zone has come down since I’ve started tracking the runs. It’s gratifying.
- The Type 1 Run Podcast (mentioned here) is incredibly useful. It amuses me that I’ve had diabetes and exercised with it longer than most of the guests have been alive, but you’re on a lifelong learning curve when you have diabetes. I learn something from every guest.
- I seem to run well the day after drinking. My body welcomes the chance of sweating it all out. As it leaves my body, the alcohol acts like petrol… Don’t do this at home though kids!
This time round, I’m planning a support crew. When I did the half-marathon ten years ago, I did the race with another runner, but had no-one waiting for me at the end or around the course. (Cue violins.) In September, I’ll have my husband and friends dotted at four-mile intervals, armed with food and water. And umbrellas for themselves. It’ll be late September, and this is Glasgow. Rain’s 95 percent guaranteed.
And is it too early to plan my post-race meal? Readers, I’m low-carb most of the time, but the minute I cross that finish line, I plan to fall face down on a ginormous plate of fish and chips, doused in salt and malt vinegar.
Only places that do light, crispy batter, crisp chips that are fluffy on the inside, home-made onion rings and mushy peas need apply.
Massive disclaimer here—my experiences are personal. They are not recommendations, especially the last one. On a serious note, endurance events can be dangerous, not just for people with diabetes, as this year’s London Marathon proved again.