What Makes Me a Runner
Running is hard. I think most people can agree on that. It hurts, it’s uncomfortable, and if you’re like me, you sweat a lot. It sometimes makes your toenails fall off, it forces you to do your laundry more than you want to, you have to wake up early even on the weekends, you have to run when you’re tired, it takes a lot of time, and it takes all of your energy. 26.2 miles is a long way. Despite all of these things, I couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to run the New York City Marathon.
A lot of people talk about how running is liberating because when they run they can let go. They don’t have to think about anything other than running and breathing. My experience is different. When I was six years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. When I run, I am constantly thinking about how I feel, if my blood sugar is trending up or down, how I am going to have to adjust my basal rate, how many gels or gummies I need to consume, how often I should be eating them, how I am going to carry everything with me, where I will refill my water bottle, how to fuel when my blood sugar is high while I’m running, if it’s going to crash on my last mile, if I need to stop or if I can keep going. My mind is racing as fast as my body is. It feels like the opposite of liberating. When I run I can’t shut off my mind or let go of the everything it carries. Every once in a while, though, I get lost in the miles. I lose myself in the pounding of the pavement. For a minute, I don’t feel the weight of all the things I’m carrying, I’m just running and breathing.
“Running is fun,” they say. As crazy as it sounds, I agree! In the past eight months, I have run almost 600 miles. Every mile has taught me a lot about running and a lot more about myself.
For the first month, I ran two or three miles at a time. My pace was decent and my legs were sore. Then, I started to increase my mileage. First five miles, then six, and then seven and a half. After each one of those milestones I felt unstoppable, like I had accomplished the unimaginable.
I thought the feeling would get old, it still hasn’t. Three months into running, I went on my first 10-mile run. Four months in, I ran a half marathon. Six months in, I ran a second one. My long runs were now 15, 18, 20 miles. Somewhere in there, between all the long runs, new pairs of shoes, and sore muscles, I became a runner.
Running with Type 1 diabetes is hard, and so is the preparation that goes into making sure I start with a steady blood sugar and pack enough gels to last me for days. The process can be mentally and physically testing when I feel lightheaded and have to stop.
The thing about running is that everyone laces up their shoes with their own fingers, and mine just happen to be calloused. That’s not to say everybody else doesn’t have their own story, their own difficult moments, their own things to carry. Running with Type 1 makes me a runner.
I realized that being able to run a mile at a certain pace or hold it for a certain distance doesn’t make me a runner. Having to stop and slow down when my blood sugar is low or drink way more water than any other runner because my blood sugar is high doesn’t make me any less of a runner.
Every mile has its own struggle. Sometimes each stride is difficult. Whenever I face a difficult moment, and I wonder how I can run another mile, I try to remind myself of my options. I can push myself to keep going or I can choose to give up. Giving up never appeals to me. The feeling of finishing something challenging is, for me, the greatest feeling there is.
Running is about more than the discomfort. Running is about more than the miles. Running is about more than me. I know that running the marathon is going to be hard. It’s going to hurt and I am going to struggle at some point. Since I know those things are inevitable and that those difficult moments are going to be plentiful, I’m going to focus on doing what I know best: putting my head down, pushing through the wall, and carrying myself across the finish line because it’s definitely worth every difficult moment.
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team here.