I wasn't always a runner

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was 29 years old, somewhat late in life compared to many who were diagnosed as children. Because I was diagnosed later on, I can clearly remember a time in my life when I wasn’t diabetic and how different my life was back then. Similarly, I can also remember a time when I hated running and dreaded working out. Maybe you’re at a similar point in your journey and don’t feel like an “athlete”. In all honesty, some days I still dread working out but I’m always thankful I finished, once I complete the workout. If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about where you’re at now, just keep at it and eventually, you’ll achieve your goals.

Growing up, I swam competitively and every once in a while, my swim coaches would have us go on a run as part of our workout. I absolutely dreaded those days! I was a slow runner and literally felt like a fish out of water. Then, my sophomore year of high school (2003), I injured my shoulder in an intense game of “sharks & minnows” and my doctor told me that I wasn’t allowed to swim for the rest of the season. Being the stubborn individual that I am, I negotiated with him and asked if I could cross train for practice and just swim at the swim meets (the competitions). He agreed as long as I promised to stop swimming if it hurt too badly.* So to cross-train, I began to run the bleachers during practice, did a ton of ab work and hit the school weight room. 

One of my last high school swim meets

At the time, my dad was marathon training, so I also began to run his “mile cool down” with him after he finished whatever run was on his schedule. My parents lived near the bottom of a hilly neighborhood and we would run about a half a mile up hill and half a mile back home once or twice per week. Then one day, my dad told me, ‘if you can do this, you can run a 5k’ and so we started running a 3 mile loop together as his training “cool down”. This became our standard for a while and I started going with him to some local 5k races on occasion. At this point, I didn’t love running but I did love spending time with my dad. On our runs together we would chat and I learned so much about life listening to my dad talk about it from his perspective.  I continued running with him and running instead of swimming at swim team practices through the rest of my high school years. I stopped swimming when I went to college but I kept running on my own (and with Dad when I was home) because I wanted to stay in shape. 

After a few years of this, I started going out to our local running club’s winter series of races. Every Sunday throughout the winter, there is a race with the shortest being a 5k and the longest being a half marathon. The first few years, I only went to the “shorter races”, nothing longer than 4.6 miles. When I graduated from college in 2008, I finally signed up to run all of the races in the series. That first year, I was so slow and was usually one of the last ones to finish the race. My dad would finish way ahead of me and then run back to wherever I was and run me in to the finish line. I would always look forward to seeing him coming up the path because I knew it meant I was almost done. I was starting to enjoy running for its own sake but my favorite part was still running with my dad (and now all of my new “back-of-the-pack” running buddies in the club). I also started going on Sunday runs with my dad whenever we were both around, if there wasn’t a race scheduled. 

After a few more years of running the winter series and with my dad on Sundays, I decided I wanted to try to finish a full marathon. My dad had completed 24 full marathons at this point in time, so I just had to see if I was capable of finishing one too. At my dad’s recommendation, I signed up for the Wineglass Marathon in 2012 since from his perspective, it was a ‘good course for a first marathon’. He signed up too and then so did my sister, Sam. The three of us ran all of our long runs together while training for that race and I wouldn’t trade that time with them for anything in the world! 

On 9/12/2012, my dad finished his 25th marathon and Sam and I finished our first. It was a huge accomplishment and something I never thought I would have been capable of back when I still hated running. Finishing that race, I wondered what else I might be capable of. That question sent me spiraling down the endurance running rabbit hole. Now I enjoy most of my runs (some of them still really suck) whether I’m running with friends or on my own. I have to say though, my favorite runs are still the easy, conversational runs that I get to spend time chatting with my dad. 

If you’re just beginning your journey with working out, running and/or diabetes, don’t get discouraged. My journey has taken me over a decade to get to the point I’m at now, it certainly wasn’t a linear path to get here and I still have a long way to go. Just take things one day at a time, don’t give up if you have a bad day/week/month, and find your “tribe”. For me it was my dad, the rest of my family, running buddies and later my husband that helped keep me going when I wanted to quit (and yes, there were many times I wanted to quit). Spend time with those who you aspire to be more like and try to mentor others who are not as far along their journey as you are. Whatever you do, just don’t give up!

Running with my tribe

*I was in an excruciating amount of pain at this point in time. It hurt so bad to move my right shoulder that I began doing things with my left hand to avoid moving my shoulder. It was also waking me up in the middle of the night any time I would accidentally roll on it. Continuing to swim, even just in races was not a smart thing to do and I definitely wouldn’t recommend pushing through injuries to anyone. Generally, I find I’m much better off if I take the time to recover and heal from injury properly and then resume normal workouts and training.

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The content on this site is not intended to be medical advice. Always consult your doctor before beginning a fitness regimen or adjusting your diabetes management strategy.

Published by Jenny Nat


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