I waited until the day after Black Friday to go shopping. I don’t like shopping, especially on the weekend when the roads and stores are busy, and definitely not on Black Friday. But I do love shopping for running shoes. New running shoes present the possibility of a faster, smoother, more comfortable run. Every new pair holds the promise of being the shoes that will keep me free from injury. Specialty running stores are staffed with runners who are experts on all things running. They look at the way you stand and walk and sometimes watch you run. They look at the bottom of your old shoes to examine the pattern of wear and tear. They listen as you describe your aches and pains. They listen as you tell them about your running goals. And then they go behind the magic curtain and emerge with a stack of boxes. Boxes of promise.
So the day after Black Friday I drove to the running store. I was excited to go out on my own. We’d been staying at a rental house on an island with my family for Thanksgiving, there were 17 of us (seven of whom are kids 15 and under), and it had been a loud and chaotic week. To leave the island I had to take a ferry to the mainland. I left my kids with my mother, stepped on the ferry, and breathed an excited sigh of happiness. It was the first time I’d been alone in days.
As I parked the car in front of the store I felt funny, so before I went inside I tested my blood sugar. I was 70. I ate three glucose tabs and entered the store. I talked with the saleswoman about my running habits and what I was looking for, and she brought out three pairs of shoes. This particular store lets customers try on the shoes and go outside to run to test them out, which is great, but I wasn’t dressed for running. So I felt silly as I ran up and down the sidewalk testing out the shoes (I was wearing jeans and a black turtleneck sweater), but I shook it off because I needed to focus. This was important. I tried to visualize myself running on the trail at home in order to get into my natural stride.
In between trying on each pair I went back inside and gave the woman my report, then tried on another pair. After my second pair I sat down in the chair so she could lace up another pair of shoes, and I felt a little off. There were so many things I wanted to ask about to narrow my decision, like the tender spot on the bottom of my foot and my history with plantar fasciitis, but I stared at her, unable to speak. “This is your chance!” I argued with myself inside my head. “What’s the matter with you?” The saleswoman sent me outside to run in another pair of shoes. So I ran. It never occurred to me that I might be low. She put another pair on my feet and I went outside for my final lap.
“These are good,” I managed to say when I came inside. I felt like I was slurring my words and was embarrassed. I followed her up to the counter to pay. “Thanks for your help,” I said and walked outside. Back in the car I tested my blood sugar and saw that I was 50. I sighed. The thrill I’d felt when I stepped on the ferry was gone. In its place was frustration and defeat.
I wish I could offer some sort of lesson from this experience, but there isn’t one. No matter how hard we work to manage our diabetes, there will always be highs and lows. There will always be frustrations. If anything, we can try not to be hard on ourselves when highs and lows happen, because they will. Time and again. The happy ending to this story is that I went for a run this morning in my new shoes, and they were awesome. I ran faster, smoother, and with more comfort.