Guest Post: Running with Type 1 Diabetes

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August 10th is a day I will never forget. Four years ago, at the age of 33, while I was on vacation visiting my parents, something just didn’t feel right with me. I couldn’t explain it but I just felt scared and sick. I had no idea what was wrong…the whole, long story is here…but I ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed with rare, late-onset Type 1 Diabetes. Being diagnosed with Type 1 as an adult is rare in the sense that Type 1 is typically diagnosed earlier in life; the condition was once referred to as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. It has not proved to be genetic and I did nothing wrong to get it. But maybe the most important point to make is that there is no cure. In order to live, I must inject myself with insulin 5 – 8 times a day. While your body balances out the food you eat with the insulin you need and the energy you burn like a well oiled machine, mine is a thousand times more complicated. And that’s before I thrown running into the mix of things!

MY NAME IS COREY AND I’M A RUNNER WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES.

I started running years before I became a T1D so I never once thought about not running after getting diagnosed. I quickly learned it wouldn’t be as easy as I had imagined. Learning to balance out my blood sugar with running, weather conditions, time of day, food intake and more was overwhelming to say the least. There were many, many tears of frustration but I loved running so much, I wasn’t going to let it deter me from trying to figure out how to manage it all. I was living in Trinidad at the time and resources were almost non-existent. So, the first thing I started was a very detailed running journal, which I highly suggest for everyone not just those with a medical condition. I would write down everything – how much sleep I got, the weather and time of day, exactly what I ate and my mood. Then immediately after my run or workout, I’d write as much down as I could remember, especially when I felt weak or slow or tired. This information was invaluable because I was able to see patterns and those patterns helped me figure out what affected my blood sugar. Lifting weights and speed work make my blood sugar go up, so more insulin is necessary but long runs and yoga make my blood sugar go down, less insulin and snacks or gels are necessary. If it’s hot and humid outside, it’s a challenge to keep my blood sugar up and stable but when it gets cold and grey out, I can easily run into the double digits without worry. But weather is just one of the factors I have to think about while running…

Running with Type 1 DIabetes

Preparation and planning is key for a good experience.

Having T1D, I can’t simply go out for a run at anytime. I need to be aware of what I have eaten and how much insulin I have on board. It’s taken me 4 years but I now know exactly what I need before, during and after my run. What do I eat? Boring as they are, regular oats (1/3 cup or packet). Oats raise your blood sugar slowly and give me plenty of energy for a long run. While running, I sip on a mix of sports drink and water, the perfect combination for me is 2/3 water and 1/3 sports drink which I put in my Osprey hydration pack. I LOVE my pack and can’t imagine running without it these days, it hold all my gels, drinks, insulin, cell phone and emergency items to allow for worry-free running. I also make sure Dex is ready to go, aka the most important guy in my life. No, it’s not my husband, it’s my CGM.

Photo: Paul J Roberts / RobertsSports Photo. All Rights ReservedPhoto: Paul J Roberts / RobertsSports Photo. All Rights Reserved

My Continuous Glucose Monitor is a life-saving device that I wear on the back of my arm (switching back and forth bi-weekly). Dex has a sensor that I inject just under my skin (it doesn’t hurt), that reads wirelessly to a small beeper like device and tells me my blood sugar every 5 minutes without me having to poke my finger. It buzzes me and beeps (sometimes annoyingly) to warn me of a high or a low blood sugar. I’m a worrier by nature so Dex relives the added stress caused by this horrible disease.

Once all of the goodies are in pace, the running can begin! I NEVER, repeat NEVER, go out for a run without at least 2 gels/gummies. I know if I got something wrong and my blood sugar started crashing, my fuel is going to save my life. If my blood sugar gets too low, too fast – I could pass out or in extreme cases, I could go into a coma or die. I’ll have a gel after my first 4 miles and if my blood sugar is holding steady, as a result of keeping an eye on my CGM, I will delay the second and subsequent gel as long as I can, normally 5-6 miles later. About 90% of the time, the run goes well and I’m fine. The other 10% is interrupted by stopping, drinking OJ at a nearby gas station or just heading home on the bus. I never let those moments bother me anymore though because I’m just happy to be running!

Since my T1D diagnosis, I have completed 12 half marathons, handfuls of 10k’s and 5K’s and last month my 1st trail marathon. My trail marathon was actually featured in this month’s Outdoor Fitness magazine (so cool) if you’re interested in checking it out.

Outdoor Fitness Magazine

I always describe my T1D as my baby, a baby that is always with me and very needy. However, my “baby” will never grow up or go away to college, it will be with me until (hopefully) one day in my lifetime, they find a cure!

Thanks for letting me share my story Charlie, hope you’re enjoying your fabulous adventure! 

You can follow my training, travels, recipes and my crazy expat life over on my blog, Learning Patience. Find me on Twitter or Instagram and I’m @coreylearn5 on Snapchat

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Thank you so much Corey – I hope you found her post as fascinating and informative as I did. I think this will make me appreciate how easy it is for me to get up and run without too much stress, I will certainly try not to take it for granted in the future. Feel free to leave comments or questions for Corey below.

10 Comments

  1. August 7, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story, Corey! So glad to hear that you kept right on running, even after your diagnosis. You sound like you are way more in tune with how your body functions and stays on balance than the rest of us. 🙂 A good running friend of mine also has Type I — only once was there a bit of a scare where we had to ask other runners at a race if they had an extra energy bar or some other form of sugar for him. Good luck with all of your adventures!

    • August 11, 2016 / 12:01 am

      Thanks for your comment. I try and that’s as much as I can do…or anyone can do right?! Thank you for your comment!

  2. August 8, 2016 / 4:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! As a sports dietitian and avid runner, I find this stuff fascinating and it will definitely remind me to be thankful that I can head out the door for a run at any given moment and not worry too much if I am properly fueled.

    • August 11, 2016 / 12:04 am

      Awe thanks Jill…I’m so happy you could take away something from my story! I have thing I think about that make me grateful too…so I guess the whole LARGER idea is that we all struggle with something…and to remember that and be grateful for what we are given! xo

  3. Eve
    August 11, 2016 / 5:37 am

    What an inspiration you are! I can’t imagine all you have to go through every day just to stay alive, let alone as an endurance runner with T1D! I’m adding you to the small list of people I try and think about during long, hard runs in which I want to give up. If you’re out there doing it, I truly have no excuse. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • August 15, 2016 / 12:25 pm

      Wow thanks Eve, that really means a lot to me. I have my own list like that too, I find it helps SO much.

  4. Helen
    August 11, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    What a great article. I have been T1 for 10+ years and I have never thought about the weather having an impact on levels. I know the struggles and the planning that has to go into a run (or any form of exercise) but the enjoyment that we get is definitely worth it 🙂

    • August 15, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      Helen, hi fellow T1D girl! Thank you very much for the nice words. Yea, the sun really does a doozy on my BS levels. Are you a fellow blogger? Just curious… Not sure if you live in London but I’d love some T1 friends here…I have none. x

  5. Nikki
    September 21, 2016 / 6:44 am

    Hi Corey my daughter is 12 and has Type 1 diabetes. This is her first year running cross country so she is starting with shorter distances but I am definitely noticing the weather, what she ate etc. Making a difference. She seems similar to you. How have you been able to determine what your blood sugar should be before you run??

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