Chronic Illness, Running, Type 1 Diabetes

Dear Jess (An Ode to My Running Buddy)

This is my running buddy, Jess.

Left: Jess

We are co-workers turned good friends who, a little more than a year ago, decided that we could ‘totally run 3 miles for coffee and donuts.’ I don’t think either of us expected that race to turn us into avid runners, let alone lead to training for our first marathon, but here we are one week out. Almost every single race that I’ve ran within the last two years has been done with Jess by my side.

Since my Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis, I’ve always struggled with how to tell new friends that I’m a diabetic. This is mostly because diabetes is often viewed as a self-inflicted disease, and I find myself questioned by strangers on if I can eat something or the I get the ‘I can totally relate, my cat had diabetes.” Insert eye roll here. I honestly don’t remember how I told Jess that I was a diabetic, but I do know that she didn’t care.

Our first race 🍩

When I say that Jess doesn’t care that I’m a diabetic, I don’t mean that she has no regard for my well being. Jess 210% understands that Type 1 Diabetes is so much more complicated than it appears. In fact, she’s been one of the few people who have never asked judgmental questions about my diet nor has she ever said anything negative about my diabetes. Jess understands that there are some mornings I can’t run because my blood sugar is either too high or too low, through no fault of my own. She’s seen my swings in blood sugar levels and understands that it affects my mood and energy levels. She’s even driven me home once because I was too low to drive, and I needed to keep treating my low every so often until my blood sugar levels stabilized. She’s also connected to my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and can see my blood sugar levels 24/7.

I think when it comes to running and diabetes, you need someone in your corner. I am very lucky that I have so many people in my corner. But I’m extremely lucky to have a friend like Jess who is not only in my corner, but running along side with me. We’ve had a lot of triumphs together while running, but we’ve also had our fair share of frustration. Some of our frustrations have been similar: crappy runs, injuries, and dips in motivation, but some have been very different from each other’s.

Marathon training run

One of my biggest frustrations is when my blood sugar doesn’t cooperate on a run. Running and diabetes is tricky and frustrating, and figuring out how to be your own pancreas while running double digit miles is not a challenge I wish on anyone. I think one of the reasons Jess is the most incredible running buddy is because no matter the distance we choose to train for, she’s never once looked and me said, “maybe you shouldn’t run this distance.” She has never once looked at my disease as something that should hold me back. Instead, she says, “we can totally do this.” She even goes above and beyond and sometimes packs extra snacks for me. 😋

Today, Jess shared a heartfelt statement on us running our first full marathon together and said: “She (Sam) is such an incredibly strong person for taking on a marathon as a type 1 diabetic and proves time and time again that T1D will not stop her from pursuing new goals. I’m just really proud of my friend and can pretty confidently say I wouldn’t be running a marathon if it wasn’t for her.” Those words made me tear up on the spot. Jess helped me get over my fear of exercising with diabetes. She helped instill a confidence in me that if I can run a 5K for donuts with a crappy pancreas, why not a marathon? If it wasn’t for Jess, I wouldn’t be running and I certainly wouldn’t be running a marathon. I am very lucky to not only have Jess in my corner as a friend, but also next to me on the course motivating me through the miles. 🖤

Fargo Half Marathon 2018

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