Running with Type 1 Diabetes


We hope you enjoy this guest post by Travis Williams, a Garmin user and fitness enthusiast, who’s been living with Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 6. 

When I was 6 years old, almost 40 years ago now, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. That is the version of diabetes that results in the pancreas no longer producing insulin, and is considered a chronic disease. Insulin is a life-sustaining hormone that helps to metabolize your food. Without insulin, people can simply waste away over time. Those with type 1 are less numerous than type 2, which typically occurs later in life and can be caused from a variety of issues. Exercise benefits both types of diabetes greatly.

The key to managing type 1 diabetes is to control one’s blood sugar, keeping it in the zone that a person without diabetes would see. Like most type 1s, I work to do that by injecting insulin, trying to maintain a proper diet, and through exercise. If I keep my blood sugar in the normal range as much as possible, it can help to prevent some potentially significant problems later on, such as heart disease, loss of kidney function and more.

When I lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years in the 1990s, I realized that my biking to work on most days really helped me manage my condition. When I returned to Portland, OR, that opportunity was less frequent. I’ve been very lucky to be able to spend a lot of time outdoors in my profession, and I frequently paddle canoes which can be an excellent workout. (Riverkeeper and Executive Director for Willamette Riverkeeper in Portland, OR). All in all though it wasn’t quite enough.

A few years ago, I wanted to ramp things up a bit, and I decided to try running. In my youth I’d played a variety of sports, but I never considered myself a long-distance runner. I started slow, a mile, then a couple. Pretty soon I was running a few miles at a time, and piecing together a decent workout plan. After a few weeks, I entered a 10k and after that I was hooked.

Over the past five years I’ve been a pretty solid runner, and run about 30-40 miles a week depending on my training schedule. I run about three marathons a year, and do that to help motivate my training. At some point I’d like to qualify for Boston, but we will see (I’m still about 15 minutes off from that). For my running I’ve used Garmin products all along. Today my go-to is the Garmin Forerunner 220. It is super solid, easy to use, and gives me the information I find essential in running.

The biggest thing for me is what running does for my health, and in managing my diabetes. Since I’ve started running, I’ve also begun to backpack and to climb the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest. Like many things in life, if you put in good effort, and have a bit of luck, one good thing can lead to another.