I Run with Type One

WRITTEN BY: Bella Brannon

Editor’s Note: Bella runs with Type One Run, a program of Beyond Type 1.

For me, running is a break from Type 1 diabetes. Not in the sense that it doesn’t need to be managed, because it does. If you find the happy medium of blood sugar control, once you get on that track or that trail, it won’t be about T1D. It’s about who wants it more, you or the girl next to you, and who is willing to work for it and embrace pain. Of course, when you’re done, the fact that you accomplished all you did with T1D makes it badass.

The fact of the matter is when you have Type 1 diabetes, you have to work twice as hard for every step, every breath and every day. Simply put, it sucks. It isn’t easy and there isn’t a break from it: nonstop finger pricks, shots, sleepless nights, shaky highs and forced sugar. If you’re a coach, parent, or a friend of someone with Type 1 diabetes, I want you to stop and think about that before you read on. If you have some connection with a high school Type 1 runner, consider everything they have on their plates and that they are still kids. They do so much and yet, still they want to do more. Despite running being one of the most physically challenging sports, they want to do it. Now that you’ve considered it, I want you to fully grasp it. Now respect and embrace it. If you are a runner with T1D, I want you to do the same. Consider how strong you are. Embrace the work involved with running and T1D and let it help you realize your potential.

Now that we are on the same page, let’s get to the point: how to run with Type 1 diabetes. First, know yourself. Do you go high? Do you go low? How do you feel when you are high while running? How do you feel when you are low while running? How do you feel normally? Personally, I go low while I am doing a workout, a long run or anything that isn’t a race. But when I race, I get an adrenaline dump that causes me to go high.

Normally, I run on emotion. I had my best runs on what I consider to be my best and worst days. An example of one of my best days, would be around May 2017, when I went on a run after something important happened to me. I ran the hardest I ever ran uphill and flew on the downhills. I still remember it because it was such an amazing run, on my mind the whole time was this thing that had just happened. When I go low, my mind kind of goes blank. I’m more concentrated on what’s around me than myself, which would be cool if it wasn’t life-threatening. I feel like I’m more sensitive to sounds and smells. My body feels heavier and I get shaky. If I am talking to someone, my speech is slow and slurred. When I am high, I am not running for joy, I am running to get to the finish line. I don’t care as much as I normally would about who is running around me and I feel tired.

Everybody’s diabetes is different. This is what I do, but you should work with your endocrinologist to determine the methods that work best for you. To combat lows, I recommend having a light snack before a run. Nothing too heavy, try to stick to five carbs per mile. U-Can bars are a great choice before a run, though they are expensive they help to stabilize blood sugar. You might also try a rice cake and peanut butter, a GU Roctane or Gu Stroopwaffle or a Kind bar. Do not take insulin for it as that will counteract the purpose. Eat this 30 to 90 minutes before your run.

Sometimes, I can use this to my advantage. For example, if I am running eight miles in an hour and a half and all my friends are going for ice cream, I have 40 carbs worth. I have an insulin pump and do a temporary basal decrease at least an hour before I run. If I am running 1-3 miles easy I do 35% less, if I do 1-3 miles high impact I do 65% less, if I do 3+ miles easy I do 65% less, if I do 3+ miles high impact I turn it entirely off. Even when I do all these things, it is highly likely that I will go low. No matter how important the workout is, it’s even more important to take care of it: I won’t be losing the full benefit of the workout and it’s better that than losing my life. If I go low, I’ll stop and take 10-25 carbs, depending on how long I have left, how fast I dropped, how low I am, and how hard I intend to go.

To counter highs, I tend to always do a 35% basal increase, no matter the distance of the race. That works for me, my mom will probably disagree. I’d also recommend drinking water, it brings down your blood sugar and helps prepare you for your race. Take special care and attention to your warm ups. Athletic things will help to bring you down. If you’re running high, go for a quick run or extend your warm up by a half mile. Giving yourself insulin close to an activity can be dangerous, so refrain from a correction unless you’re over 220 mg/dl (13 mmol/L). Even so, give yourself half of what you normally would. Adrenaline bumps always come down, and lows are more dangerous than highs. I don’t stop or hold back from a race, if I’m high because it’s not immediately life threatening.

It’s important to realize that your blood sugars are never going to be perfect and that there is a time to keep pushing and a time to stop. Don’t get too stressed about it and don’t neglect the routine. You’re always going to have another high, and you’re always going to go low again. It’s important to manage it, but not allow it to define you. Correct when you need to, it’s a cycle. Even if you make a mistake, learn from it, it’s okay. Even though Type One is hard, just remember you’re a badass.

Read Bella’s mother’s account of her running training.


Bella Brannon

Bella Brannon is a high school student, varsity track and cross country runner and Oahu Junior Lifeguard. She is a committed Youth Ambassador to JDRF and PADRE Foundation and is the 2018 Hawaii State Junior Lifeguard Distance Run Champion.