Monday, 4 August 2014

Peas in a pod

So that’s week two out of the way and my first 20 mile week since late January/early Feb.  As usual, it had its ups and downs with a pretty good 5 miler followed up by a pretty atrocious one, all rounded off with an average 10 mile run at the weekend.


While I was out and about, it struck me how many similarities there are between running and having diabetes:


·         They’re both unpredictable.  Take my two 5 mile runs.  The first was excellent – one of the fastest I’ve done in months, and my 7thfastest time of the year.  I came back feeling really pleased and confident that I had finally started to get to a place where I could push on and start to make some serious progress.  The second of those runs a few days later was abysmal.  I’d prepared in the same way I usually do – checked my blood, had a couple of jelly babies to stop my blood going low while I was running, had a few puffs on my inhaler to help my breathing and did a few (albeit brief) stretches.  After 3 miles I was a wreck – with an aching back, pain in my left side and I couldn’t catch my breath (and worse still, my inhaler I carry with me had run out).  Now I’ve been running long enough to know things like that will happen without any obvious reason and having diabetes can be the same.  You can have one day where your blood glucose readings are pretty much ‘perfect’ and the next day, you’ll do exactly the same things, weigh your carbs out as usual and your blood glucose levels will be bouncing around between painfully high or sickeningly low.  Being able to accept that and try and again the next day is key.


·         They’re both affected by many things.   Obviously things like the terrain, route and weather will affect how you run.  Running uphill on uneven ground will definitely yield different results to running on a nice flat, even path.  Well it definitely will for me at least.  Diabetes is very similar.  Insulin absorption is affected by temperature (it absorbs faster when it’s warm) so you need to think about how your body will behave differently in the heat of summer compared to cooler days.  A lot of people with diabetes will tell you that they have more hypos in the summer.  Even the time of day has an effect on the amount of insulin you need.  Many people have different insulin to carb ratios at different times of the day and a lot of people also see a rise in blood glucose in the morning, which may mean they need more insulin first thing.  Foods with higher fat content will affect the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream which means you need to adjust the way in which you administer insulin.   Being aware of the things that are going to affect you is important.


·         They both require proper planning.   I foolishly underestimated the weather on Saturday morning as I set off for my 10 mile effort.  It was overcast and a bit breezy so I set off in a t-shirt with a litre of water, thinking I’d have some to spare by the time I got home.  After about 6 miles, the sun had broken through the clouds, it had got a lot muggier and I was rationing my water to make sure I had enough to get me through the last mile.  I got home cursing myself for not starting with an extra half a litre and a running vest.  A lot of my life is given over to planning how to manage diabetes.  I went to a wedding on Saturday night and stayed over in a nearby hotel.  Fortunately it was little over an hour away from home so I decided not to take my usual bag full of spares and supplies, but still made sure I had a couple of spare cannulas and my inserter with me just in case.  I’d refilled my pump with insulin after my run that morning so I knew I’d be OK for insulin (a full pump will last me at least 3 days).  Really I should have packed a spare vial, a couple of reservoirs for the pump, plus all the kit in case the pump failed and I had to revert to pens.  I took a chance that being relatively close to home meant I’d be able to sort it out fairly quickly if anything went seriously awry.  That said, I still forgot extra blood testing strips so had to ration them a bit.  Not great when my evening readings started to go high and I wanted to keep checking!  Prior planning will affect performance.


·         They’re both tiring.  This might be an obvious one in some sense but it’s definitely a big similarity.  Obviously running make you tired and running on a muggy summer’s morning makes you extra tired.  Thankfully my legs recovered pretty quickly after this 20 mile week.  It’ll get harder as the weekly miles increase (and I know I’ll start to feel the longer runs when they start!)  Having diabetes is quite frankly exhausting sometimes.  Not so much physically, but mentally it can take its toll.  A lot of the self-management becomes second nature after a while.  You keep your medication and supplies in the same place, you can almost test your blood without looking and inject or use a pump as a reflex.  But as I mentioned in another post I wrote for Diabetes UK, it can be difficult to switch off from diabetes.  You constantly have to consider whether you have enough insulin to get through the day, when the battery on your pump will run out, how many carbs are present in a biscuit that someone brings into work…. The list feels never ending, and having to manage all that information in your mind 24/7 takes its toll.  If you ask people with diabetes what they want more than anything, I’d wager the most popular answer to that question (besides “a cure”) would be “a day off”.  We all know what it’s like to be tired and being able to manage that as best we can is all we can do.


I could go on and on with that list, but I’ve rambled a fair bit already.  This week is supposed to be an “easy” week to let your body adapt to the training.  I’m mostly going to adhere to that philosophy but I might stick an extra run in so instead of doing 2, 4 and 5 miles, there’ll be an extra 3 miler in there to help me try and rediscover that confidence I had at the start of last week.  I can also use the shorter runs to focus on pace and the longer runs to practice holding  steady pace for longer distances.  It all depends what I can fit in really.


Finally, as always, a word about why I’m doing all this (besides the promise of a medal at the end of it all!)  I’m raising money for Diabetes UK who are the leading charity who care for and campaign on behalf of all people with diabetes in the UK.  As you may know, I’m involved in some of the work they do already by writing a monthly blog for their site as well as being chairman of the Sheffield Group of Diabetes UK.  The work the charity does benefit millions of people across the country who can struggle to manage their condition and have their voice heard when it comes to getting the appropriate level of healthcare and support.  I’ve had diabetes for 13 years and still rely a lot on the support they offer – these services are so valuable for people who have either type of diabetes, regardless of how long they’ve had it.


If you can spare anything at all, please help me try and raise £1000 ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon in October by visiting and donating whatever you can.







  1. Very good analogy! I'm not really much of a runner, but there are definitely some similarities. I wish both running and diabetes were more predictable. :P

  2. Hi! Yeah I completely agree - there's always something unexpected to deal with. Keeps us on our toes I guess! :-)