The 10 mile Philly Broad Street Run is popular. Like 40,000 runners popular. Registration is by lottery and runners will not find out if they are in for another week. In hopes to channel motivation and a little luck, I thought I would post one more revised version of my 2013 experience in hopes that I can write a 2015, more successful version in May.
Sometimes the only way to win a race is to stop running.
I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes shortly after my 4th birthday. I don’t have a clear memory of a day that wasn’t filled with blood glucose testing and carbohydrate counting. And while I try to look at this disease as somewhat of a blessing for keeping me health conscious, I’ve also spent the majority of the last 33 years trying to avoid it. As a teen, I rarely tested my blood sugar, I guessed insulin dosages and ate whatever teens eat. I blatantly ignored a relatively serious medical condition that can have serious complications. I was lucky enough to have suffered very few consequences, but luck only gets you so far.
And then I grew up. (Well, I meandered through my 20’s and THEN I grew up). I met the man of my dreams, married him, and recognized a newfound motivation to self-manage. I made the leap into insulin pump therapy, got pregnant (2 weeks after the wedding, much to our surprise) and starting managing my diabetes like an NFL defensive coordinator manages his linebackers. Every carb counted, every basal rate adjusted, every blood sugar recorded and analyzed extensively, nothing was breaking through my line. I was a professional diabetic with attention to every detail except for one. I still didn’t want anyone to know. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be in control and avoided the acknowledgement of limitations at any cost.
As a mom of two kids, I wanted to be perfect but cold sweats, shaky hands and low blood sugar is not perfect. More often than I would like to admit, my husband forced me to sit down and drink orange juice after I would irrationally melt down over spilled milk (literally). That feeling of defeat is unmeasurable. Not only did I spill the milk, but I didn’t acknowledge that I needed help. I didn’t stop.
It took me until May 5, 2013 to truly realize that I was doing it wrong. The Philadelphia Broad Street Run is a 10 mile race and deemed the most popular in the country with upwards of 40,000 runners. The course starts and finishes on Broad St. cutting straight through the middle of the city. It’s the most energized race I’ve ever experienced. The Temple University football team cheers in full uniform, the United States military high-fives the finishers, and local church-goers take a break from service to clap and wave. It’s the most impressive representation of Philadelphia, in my opinion, and I was going to be a part of it. And I wasn’t alone. My best friend had agreed to run with me.
This was the my longest race to date and the first time I was running with a continuous glucose monitor or CGM (a subcutaneous sensor that monitors blood sugar trends and transmits data to a handheld receiver). After a 5am wake up and assembly at the starting line, I soon realized that my training regimen was not good enough to avoid a pre-race high blood sugar. Running with high blood sugar is comparable to running with the worst hangover you’ve ever experienced, minus the awesome party. As we waited in the masses and shimmied closer to the starting line, I continued to inject insulin via my pump to lower my blood sugar to a comfortable level for a long run. At the starting line I was relieved to see the arrow on my monitor pointing down indicating that my blood sugar was heading back to the normal range. At mile marker 3, I could see that my blood sugar was continuing to fall too quickly. I had over-treated the high and caused the opposite complication. After four running gel packs (a total of 88 grams of carbohydrates), there was no change. Panic was starting to set in, but not panic that I was going to pass out in the midst of thousands of runners, it was panic that I would fail to finish. More importantly, my potential to fail was a result of this stupid disease. Jenn knew what was happening and was keeping me calm despite her concern for my well-being. As we approached mile marker five and City Hall, there was an ambulance parked just before the bend and I was asked one of the most difficult question I’ve ever had to face as a diabetic.
“Do you want to stop?”
No, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to be in control. I wanted to finish. I wanted the diabetes to go away. But just as quickly as those emotions pushed me to keep going, I realized that the only way to finish was to stop. The only way to beat this 31 year nemesis was to face it head on and admit that I do have a limitation. One that I can control and one that will not keep me from living a normal happy life. But only if I am accountable for it.
So we stopped.
I told the paramedic that I was a Type 1 diabetic, that my blood sugar was dropping, and that I HAD to finish. After an official glucose reading of 45 mg/dl (normal is 80 mg/dl), more glucose gel, and half of a bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts (that my best friend ran to buy during a race, by the way), I was given the ok to keep running.
That last 5 miles was not only the finish to my first long race, it was the first time I had given in to my disease and gotten stronger. The first time that I felt legitimately in control. It was also the first time my best friend had gone into a donut shop during a timed race, which I love her so much for.
We crossed the finish line together after 2 hours 1 minute and 4 seconds. Without a doubt, 2 of the most significant hours of my life.
I have since run two half-marathons and several shorter races and hope to run Broad Street again in 2015.
This time without the bagel.
7 days until runners are notified…stay tuned