The first mile? It lies…

Jeff and I at the North Face Endurance 50K last December. Jeff’s first 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon and ultra. All in a single race. ūüôā

The first mile of a run is pretty typically…

…a liar.

Those first few minutes are not the whole truth.¬† It’s not even an accurate indicator of what’s to come.¬† It won’t be how the entire¬†run goes.¬† You learn that you just kind of have to grit your teeth, ignore the lies and look for a spot to settle into…

Runners seem to all know this truism about that first mile.  Most runners are merciful enough to pass this wisdom along quickly to newbies they encounter.

Just ask my friend Jeff about that first mile.

The first mile we ran together? ¬†This normally energetic and happy and optimistic person was … well… suddenly very NOT.

Not at all the happy, funny, positive guy I’m used to being around.¬† I kept encouraging him. ‘Jeff – the first mile sucks. It will get better. Hang in there. Keep moving.’

He made some pretty pointed comments to me that can’t be repeated on this blog. ¬†Use your imagination. He sure did.

By mile three he was finally settling in and ready to kick into high gear.

He was no longer cussing me.

And most notably? He was smiling again.

North Face 50K. We’re at the 10K mark of the race.¬† AFTER the first mile, but well before mile 20ish where he was using another finger in the pictures. ūüôā

I got to thinking about this concept/phenomena the other day when I was running (comfortably and beyond that first mile). Why is it that with¬†close to three years (averaging six days a week…) of working toward becoming a runner — why does that first mile still just kind of suck?

Let me reiterate something important… ¬†I am NOT talking about THE WHOLE run. It really is just that ‘getting started’ part of each run that is not to be trusted.

Even this morning on a short, easy run on familiar and favorite terrain — it takes me a mile or two (or three on some days) to settle in, get a rhythm, push the naysayers that are screaming in my head out of my brain.

It takes me some time to simply battle it out with my legs and brain and heart and get all systems to accept that I’m going to run no matter what other plans or ideas they may collectively think they have. ¬†So they should all just shut up and start working together already, please and thank you.

You’re really wanting to ask me why…¬† WHY do I keep running if it’s that hard each and every time I lace up my shoes and get started?

Good question.

Very good question.  

One I ask myself often.

It is because I know how I feel when I’m DONE running.

Not just a single run, mind you, I am talking about the cumulative HABIT and lifestyle of running.

No matter how poorly I may do in a single day, how much I fight my mind at the start, how wet/cold/hot/sweaty/grumpy/dirty/chafed I am, even if I trip and fall flat on my face…

I never, not once, no matter how good/bad/weird/hard the run is…

I never regret RUNNING.

Running as a habit¬†buys me endurance and health and strength and pride in myself and a growing trust in my body’s ability to do difficult things. This doesn’t even touch on the other perks running has dropped in my life…¬† The friends, scenery, memories, laughter, enjoyment of being outdoors and discovering (after40 years!) the pure joy of being ALIVE and moving.

After that first mile or two, I almost always hit a groove or at least find a spot of some comfort with the routine. ¬†My mind begins to settle down, my feet get more comfortable finding the earth and my heart starts trying to find the sky. ūüôā

And besides, I will often remind myself, no one ever said the good things in life would come easy or be comfortable.

And the consistent, persistent habit of running?

It has very literally saved my life.

Running is hard. Making the time is hard. Fighting through some initial discomfort each time, each day, is hard.

All of that is still far easier than living with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Running is just one of several important tools that help me continue in the process of cementing a lifestyle shift that keeps 220 pounds lost and gone.  Eating well and being active daily is what we hope, if I am lucky, will keep diabetes away for a few glucose-stable decades.

When that first mile sucks — all of THAT is what I try to remember.

When I start my Garmin and head out on a run, I use that first mile to try to remind myself of where I was four short, fat, unhealthy years ago.

I focus on the result and reward that I know – for me personally – comes from the process of fighting through that first mile day in and day out.

I think about how hard I have worked to create a new healthy lifestyle.

I think about being handed a bone-fide second chance at living life to the fullest.

I think about no longer being T2 diabetic or taking shots or swallowing handfuls of prescription meds.

I often think about how I have the ability and capability to run and walk and move when others do not and can not…

That first mile can lie all it wants.

I’m done listening.

I’m in this for the long run. (Pun intended.) ūüôā

What do you do to get through that ‘first mile’ of whatever tough activity you have in front of you?

Mid-run shenanigans. ūüôā


Betsy T2 and Abbi T1 at the 2014 Oregon Tour de Cure ride for Diabetes

I get asked all the time, so I want to use a short blog post to try to explain the difference and impact of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.

They’re vastly different.

Type 1 Diabetes (T1) is an autoimmune disease. ¬†The body attacks and kills the beta cells that are made in the pancreas.¬† Beta cells produce insulin.¬† A T1 HAS to take insulin or they die. ¬†It’s the ‘bad’ diabetes, the one they also call ‘juvenile’. ¬†No matter what they call it — it’s deadly without modern medicine.¬† It’s important to note that insulin is NOT a cure, it’s simply a medicine that keeps our T1’s alive until we find the cure. ¬†One other note? Eating or not eating sugar/carbs/sweets is part of their own personal care routine to balance blood glucose and insulin. ¬†Very personal, very necessary and — well — diet changes simply aren’t going to solve the fact that they have an autoimmune disease and their pancreas doesn’t work.

Type 2 Diabetes (T2)¬†is also called insulin resistance. ¬†It’s a metabolic disorder. You may have heard it called ‘adult onset’. ¬†We produce insulin, but our bodies can’t use it very well. It’s the most common form of diabetes.¬† It’s largely (not exclusively for those of you who want to bite my head off!) a lifestyle disease. ¬†Years of poor/less-than-ideal food choices and lack of activity is commonly what has propelled most folks into T2.¬† Genetics, pancreatic injury and other illness can certainly play into the development and severity of T2.¬† The protocol for managing T2 is lifestyle changes, oral meds and injectable insulin.¬†Diet and exercise are scientifically proven and important components in the successful management of T2.

There is a small cluster of other diabetes illnesses that you may have heard of as well such as gestational diabetes, T1.5 and monogenic diabetes.

Here are some basic statistics to help put this monster (and growing…) disease into perspective…

1.25 million Americans are T1.

29.1 million Americans are T2.

9.3% of the population has diabetes.

It’s the 7th leading cause of death.

1 in 11 of us have diabetes.

$245 billion is the ANNUAL cost for caring for those with diabetes.

1 in 5 healthcare dollars is spent caring for those with diabetes, while 1 in 3 medicare dollars is spent caring for those with diabetes.

If you want more information about anything related to T1/T2 or the costs/social ramifications check out

These numbers are all climbing – FAST! – in the wrong direction. Research dollars are not even close to keeping¬†pace with the growth and impact of these disease. ¬†Research for diabetes is critically ‘under funded’.

While I’m not sure if I know the exact words we should be using to discuss this issue I keep hearing the docs and health care folks I have the opportunity to interact with use words epidemic, staggering, out-of-control.

Given what I am learning about both major forms of diabetes, the people afflicted and the sky rocketing costs for care — those words seem sadly correct.

One of my personal missions in this life to see if I can’t work to get those numbers to start climbing faster in the RIGHT direction. ¬†Or at least slow it down and get it turned and running in a better direction.

What other questions do you have about the difference between T1 and T2? 

I’m so sorry…

Chasing hannah
Jeff, Wendie, Josh, Taryn and I. Running to the finish line of the 2014 Eugene Marathon to watch Hannah cross the line with a Boston qualifying time! (Photo Taryn Hand)

I have had two conversations this past month with women who were obese and working their BEHINDS off to get healthy. ¬†Both are 12 months or more into their transformations. They’re determined. Loving the changes they are experiencing. It is great FUN to talk to them! (One of them is successfully and aggressively reversing Type 2 diabetes!)

Conversations with people chasing down new and healthy lifestyles almost always find their way to the topic of learning how to love running/exercise/activity.¬† How do you make activity a permanent part of your new life? Making the time in your daily routine, have accountability partners, signing up for classes, having a goal…¬† We rehashed all the tricks that work.

Individually they finally expressed the same underlying concern…

They want to start running and know that they will be more successful in learning how/sticking to the habit if they were to join in on walks/runs with other people.

But they’re worried and embarrassed and fearful…

‘People will make fun of me.’

‘They’ll get frustrated at having to wait for me because I’m so slow.’

‘Maybe I should wait until I’m in shape and thin before trying to run with anyone.’

‘I won’t be able to keep up.’

I KNOW the feeling.

I remember the fears with stark clarity.¬† I was in the same boat when I started.¬† I will admit that I even dip my toes back in those waters of self-doubt periodically if I’m tired, or feel intimidated or I am trying something new….

Fearful and apologetic

The layer of fear and trepidation and hesitation was more suffocating than the layers of fat I was wearing…

Here’s the advice I passed along. ¬†(I work to keep this¬†front and center of my brain even now…)

1. Find a group/person that specifically says ‘everyone welcome’. ¬†Take them at their word.

2. Be honest about your abilities and goals. ¬†If you can run a 14 minute mile – and you are working to run two miles in a row. ¬†GREAT! ¬†Tell them. No shame, no bragging, no apologies. If you won’t be able to keep up or there’s another group that’s more your speed; they WILL tell you!

3. Plan to have fun!¬† Enjoy being outside, with other people who love to be active.¬† The enthusiasm of being around people who love what they’re doing is contagious.¬† Try to leave your insecurities and discomfort and fears in the car. ¬†Be positive about what you think you’ll experience and you will be surprised how often your expectations become reality.

4. And last, but perhaps the most important? DO NOT APOLOGIZE… Groups that run with a variety of abilities often have pre-set spots where they’ll re-group mid-run. When you arrive to the group of runners who are waiting for the rest of the group to gather up before heading off on their next section; do not apologize for being the last one to arrive or for making them wait. ¬†Just don’t apologize for anything… You’re giving it 100% of your best effort. You’re moving and trying and growing and being brave — and they know it.¬† They’re happy you are out there with them.¬† I promise you that this is the truth.

Apologizing highlights your insecurities. ¬†Chronic apologizers can be tiresome for even the hardiest, most supportive of souls…

I know.

I did it for YEARS….

I spent decades apologizing. ¬†For being fat. ¬†For being in someone’s space. ¬†For not fitting in my airplane seat. ¬†For having to have special accommodations for my size/diabetes.¬† For being the last runner up the hill.

I spent the first year running apologizing left and right.¬† ‘Uh… HELLO. ¬†Look at me. ¬†280 pounds and literally shuffling along in a 10K and trying not to die.’¬† I didn’t belong in this world of runners and I just KNEW someone wanted to tell me that; and didn’t have the guts.¬† Make no mistake — I was giving it 100% effort every single time I put on my running shoes! ¬†But I knew I didn’t look like any of the others who were out there at the event…

My reaction?¬† (The reaction I’ve used my entire life?!)¬† Self-defense mechanisms firing like a freaking machine gun…

Apologize profusely before anyone can point out the obvious.

I went on my very first trail run with my friend Josh Gum.

He’s the first person who asked me to go on a run with him. He wants everyone to learn to love trail running like he does. He said he would run/walk/hike — whatever it was I was capable of doing/wanting to do that day. For some odd reason, I just trusted that he was telling me the truth.

I was nervous as hell – and apologizing all over the place for the first few months I was able to find time to run with him.¬† He would run ahead at times and I would catch up and apologize for making him wait… ¬†He would stay with me for bits and we would chat about running and life and tell jokes and I was hammering him with questions about running/trails/food/lifestyle shifts.¬† Chafing.¬† Good lord.¬† We talked a lot about preventing chafe. ūüôā¬† I would routinely apologize for holding him back from running faster. Or if I was sucking wind and just trying to hang on and run a little bit further…¬† He would tell me stories, not let me quit or we would run in companionable silence.¬†¬† I would apologize for being so slow when I could finally breathe again.

At one point he tired of telling me to stop apologizing.  He told me, gently yet firmly, he was done listening to me apologize for learning to run and giving things 100% and I needed to knock it off.

I needed to stop doing it for my own good.

I had nothing to apologize for.

I walked away and really thought about what Josh said.¬† STILL think about that short, yet important, conversation.¬† I need to ask him about it one of these days, but I figure he thought I would work ‘apologizing’ out of my system with some confidence and experience running. ¬†When he realized it was just a bad, self-deprecating habit that didn’t belong in my life or my new lifestyle I was building; he cared enough to call me on it.

And I trusted him enough to listen.

Honestly?¬† You might run into competitive, mean, snobby, impatient, whiny, defensive, judgmental folks in your journey to learn to make activity a solid part of your life.¬† But be fair about that for just a moment… We run into jerks in all walks of life. It’s just that we’re hyper-tuned to it around our bodies/running/sweating because we’re feeling so horribly vulnerable.¬† In so many aspects of life we – as strong and smart people –¬† tumble/fight/persevere through those interpersonal obstacles multiple times a day and don’t even look back. But jerks exist.¬† Just don’t go running with them a second time. ¬†ūüôā

You WILL also be blessed beyond measure to find some amazing, strong, fun, funny, wise, kind people on this journey to health!  Keep your eyes wide open.  There are LOTS of good people out there that will support, encourage, nudge you along when you need it the most.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out on their journey to become active?