Outrunning Type 1 Diabetes

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All through high school and well into college, I told my sisters "If you want to see me run, set a Grizzly bear on me. You'll see me run."

My second oldest sister has run Boston twice. (The Boston Marathon is like the Olympics for the average runner.) My other two sisters have done multiple marathons and half marathons (one while 20 weeks pregnant). I never did find something I really enjoyed for exercise.

One day, I saw an ad for the "Tough Mudder". I told my husband "Hey-we should do that." His response was a reality check: "Babe, that involves running. You hate running." I don't like being told what I can and can't do. I've lived more than half my life with type 1 diabetes and hate the idea that it can stop me from doing anything. So naturally, I told myself I was GOING to do this even if it's miserable-just to prove I can.

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I started with running a block and then walking a block, and suffering the whole time. Pretty soon I could run a mile without stopping. I remember the first time I ran five miles, I laughed and said out loud, "Take that, Diabetes."

Of course, I never did do the Tough Mudder, but I had gotten the running bug. I loved it. It became my zen. Pretty soon, I was signing up for my first half marathon, just in time for my 15 year diabetes anniversary. I ran the entire thing and didn't walk once. After that, it became a tradition to run the Annapolis half marathon to celebrate another year that I've fought diabetes. I didn't know then that the journey or rather the battle for my health had only started.

I ran several half marathons and pretty soon, I wanted to lose weight to look more like other "serious" runners and to be faster and make better times during my races. The combination of my perfectionism, poor self-esteem, poor body image, and rather unhappy work situation took me down a road that would change my life forever. My natural tendency to "eat healthily" became a full-blown eating disorder.

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I lost 20 pounds in less than 2 months and my BMI was flirting with underweight. My running wasn't fun anymore. It was mandatory. A chore. A punishment. Not to mention it felt like Hell. To make an already long story short, I went into treatment for anorexia nervosa and did regain my weight and health, but my poor eating habits and over-exercising had already taken its toll.

About a year after my admission, I rediscovered the joy of running (not the punishment of it) and wanted to try for a full marathon. I trained and fueled, but pretty soon the "ED" began to rear it's ugly head again. Between running upwards of 30-35 miles per week and inadequate fueling, I wound up with stress fractures in my tibias that I would battle for a year and a half. As part of my recovery from my injury and my eating disorder, I discovered yoga. It became a healing practice for me emotionally and physically and has made me both a stronger person and a stronger runner.

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Yet, that full marathon still taunts me. I plan to run my first full marathon in April, now recovered mind, body, and spirit, more determined than ever that I won't let Diabetes or anything else stand in my way.

For more from Maureen, you can follow her on Strava.