Diabetes and Running: A Beginner Runs the Missoula Half-Marathon

By GINA BROWN

When I tell people that I have type one diabetes, I almost always get the same response “I did not know you were a diabetic,” and I almost always respond with “I’m not, I am Gina.” I could use a lot of words to describe myself – wife, mother, professional, friend, daughter, sister, runner.

Wait, runner?

Diabetes and running? Yes! I am a runner, and I happen to have type one diabetes.  Some people may say that a runner with type one diabetes is an oxymoron, but I have had this condition for almost 37 years and I have never let it stop me from doing anything. Why should running be any different?

My entire life, I wasn’t really a runner, nor was I athletic growing up. My interest in fitness started in my late 30’s and I was 40 the first time I ever ran a mile! So like just about everything else in my life I had to learn how to incorporate the needs of my diabetes with what I wanted to do which, in this case, was to run.

I wear an insulin pump so the first thing I wondered was, do I wear my pump while I run? For a few reasons, I decided that I am better off wearing my pump while I run especially because I run alone a lot. If I were to get hurt and have to lay in wait for help, I would be better off with my pump on instead of on my dining room table.

So the next question was, where do I put my pump while I am running? I put it in my sports bra once and it got too wet (sweat) and quit working. (Fortunately, it was still under warranty so I got a replacement no problem. I kept running.)

 

Gina just keeps onrunning.

My first winter running, I discovered that I cannot run outside if it’s really cold because the battery in my pump doesn’t like the cold. So, I wrapped it up in wool socks and put it inside the pocket of my jacket. I kept running.

When I decided that I wanted to run the Missoula Half-Marathon, I signed up for the training class. Before too long, I was running farther than I ever had in my life. It was so exciting to push myself a little bit farther every week and dream about crossing that finish line. Along with running farther distances came the need for checking my blood sugar and at times taking nourishment (and time) to let my blood sugar come back up. This ate up time and, as we runners know, time is a valuable thing!

I bought myself a Garmin and decided that the only time that matters is my time. Thankfully, I trained for the half-marathon for almost four and a half months. Thanks to the fabulous training class offered by Run Wild Missoula, I’d run all of the half-marathon route and had my plan in place as to when and where I would check my blood sugar and take nutrition breaks.

On the big day, I had all my gear packed, I had run this race in my mind a hundred times, I knew where and when I would be stopping to check my blood sugar, I had eaten a good breakfast, I had slept well. I was so ready for this day.

When I got to the half-marathon start I ran into some friends from my training class and as we were excitedly waiting for the race to begin I heard the alarm on my insulin pump go off. I instantly felt my heart stop. What could be wrong? What could I have forgotten? I looked at my pump and it said “low battery.”

That could not be right since I had checked the battery status before I left and it was fine. Panic started to set in, thinking that the battery would die before I cross the finish line. “I’m freezing” I hear someone say. That’s it! I think my pump is cold! So I put it under my arm to warm it up and, moments later, I took off at the starting gun.

I kept running.

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 Stay in the loop with Missoula’s running community! Check out the Run/Walk It archives for more posts from Run Wild Missoula director Eva Dunn-Froebig and other Missoula runners andwalkers.

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Gina Brown has been running for four years and just completed her first half-marathon this summer. Gina works for Missoula County and plans to run her first full marathon in 2013!