The recent issue of Runners’ World is dedicated to the Boston marathon. One article that I especially liked was “Standing Ovation” by Mark Remy. This article paid tribute to the spectators who make marathons and other road races bearable, fun and enjoyable, and to personal spectators (meaning spouses, other family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends) who support, love and encourage their road warriors. Road races, but especially marathons, are not just about the runners; they are also about the volunteers, the communities, the organizers, the families, the friends, and the strangers who stand by the side of the road for no reason other than to cheer.
I personally related to the article because I know how much energy a marathoner can draw from the crowd. The free oranges, chocolates and drinks, the shouts of “gambatte” (do your best), “faitto” (fight) or “you can do it,” and free offers of “ice spray” or something like it for my cramping calves, all from spectators I have never met before or since, have helped push me towards the finish line. And I probably would not even have made it to any starting line without my most enthusiastic supporter, my husband, behind me. Although my husband is not a runner, he wakes up when I wake up for a run (no matter how much I try to be silent as I change into my running clothes). He makes my post-run shakes. He adjusts our schedule so I can fit in a long run. He reminds me not to overdo it. He massages my legs. He’s my cheerleader. He is there, at whatever race I enter, drenched in cold rain or boiling under the sun, hurrying from one spot to another, standing and waiting, just so that he can be there when I run past. And, like other spectators, he doesn’t have to be there, but he always is.
The article also resonated with me as a diabetic. I find it interesting that many diabetics, mostly non-runners, describe diabetes as a marathon. We diabetics have to deal with our condition one day at a time, one meal at a time, one step at a time, very much like a marathon. And, just as spectators make marathons bearable, our support group makes our diabetic life bearable for us and everyone around us.
Take my case. It’s so easy for me to see diabetes as being just about me. I can be consumed by my diabetic needs and problems that I sometimes forget that others don’t have diabetes, that they too have their own needs and problems, and that I too have to be there for them as much as they are there for me. It’s so tempting to whine and wallow in self-pity instead of facing the daily challenges of controlling one’s diabetes, just as it is so tempting to stop at the 38 km. mark.
Thankfully, my husband is the master of nipping my diabetes-induced self-centeredness, “woe is me” attitude and self-importance in the bud. He is my main support system. He’s been with me right from my diagnosis and through my roller coaster ride of emotions, adjustments and challenges. He understands me as a diabetic and as a runner. He is my constant reminder that life is not just about my chronic condition and is certainly not just about me. He got the raw end of the deal, I think, as he married not only a runner but a diabetic as well.
I also owe a lot to other people. I’ve been so lucky to have found my GP and endocrinologist who are both compassionate, caring and knowledgeable, their nurses and staff, as well as other non-principal (but still important) members of my medical team. To me, they are more than “prescription writers” or an inconvenient necessity to get my regular tests. They are vital collaborators in maintaining my health.
I also have my family and friends. My father who is a type 2 diabetic himself is a source of information on how to live with diabetes. Although we have different diabetes management strategies, and certainly do not always see things eye to eye, I learn from him how to deal with this disease. My brothers have been supportive and are simply the best. My friends who know my condition have been respectful and trusting of my decisions and choices. They do not second guess me, and are certainly not the food police.
As I have written above, many diabetics have likened diabetes to a marathon. Until the research community finds a cure, then we’re in here for the long haul. It will be a sad, lonely and difficult journey to do alone, without our support system. So, if you haven’t expressed it yet, it’s time we let our personal cheerleaders know how much we appreciate them. They may not have our diabetes, but they certainly share it, and sometimes live it, with us.