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Running with Type 1 diabetes

Are you a runner? Do you have Type 1 diabetes? Charlene has a question about running with Type 1 diabetes – share your advice, tips and lessons learned below…

Hi,

I have been a Type 1 diabetic since 1984 and have been running fairly regularly, but recently decided I need a new challenge.  I’ve been running half-marathons with no significant problems and managed my sugar levels throughout without gu or syrups. I used regular sips of Coke and mini energy bars.

My new challenge is a full marathon.  I need advice on carbs or gu while running, without rocking my blood sugars too much.  I am not on a pump, which I suppose makes it slightly more challenging.

Anyone who has been running with Type 1 diabetes and can offer advice?

Much appreciated!

– Charlene

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Read more about trail running with diabetes and a few fun trail runs in South Africa for diabetics to try.

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7 Comments

  1. Doug Doug

    Hi Charlene,

    That’s great that you’re planning to tackle a full marathon. It should be feasible, as well as a lot of fun. I’ve just finished my third marathon with T1D (also not on a pump), and I haven’t had any major issues with it. I typically drink some juice before I run (more or less the same amount regardless of distance) and then take a running gel about every five miles (each one having around a 20-gram mixture of faster and longer-acting carbohydrates). Over the course of the marathon, then, I’ll take about four gels and water/Gatorade every few miles, and I’ve finished in good shape each time. I notice that if I delay taking the gels beyond a couple miles (e.g., trying to stretch it to every six or seven miles) I can feel hypoglycemia kicking in, but you might have to calibrate things to your body.

    Good luck with your training!

    Doug

  2. Susan Susan

    Hi Charlene
    What a great challenge- go for it, it’s definitely doable!
    I’ve been T1D for almost 25yrs and have run 2 full marathons in the last 2 years. Crossing the finish line of my first marathon was an achievement I will never forget.
    I am on a insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring, which helped a lot to see how I was doing during the race. I made sure I ate a good breakfast before the run but only gave half the bolus that I would usually give. Every 10km I would eat a FarBar (mini energy bar) and every second water stop I’d have a few sips of coke. This worked well for me both times and I managed without my blood sugar dropping below 4.
    All the best with your training and race day.

  3. Alex Alex

    Hi Charlene,
    Certainly achievable! I’ve done 15+ ultra marathons and normal marathons on a lantus/novorapid MDI scheme. Your approach sounds perfect. The key will be adapting your strategy according to what happens after your current comfort zone (21km, and maybe 28-32km with some marathon training). Be prepared to test when you are unsure. And then take on carbs, or hold off on carbs, according to your blood glucose. I have been using a Freestyle Libre, which is excellent for running. Otherwise, any finger prick is worth it. I have seen my carb requirements go up in the last 10km, and I have also slowed to a walk and needed far less carbs. Finally, for your basal, it gets tricky with a taper. I usually choose an amount 1 or 2 units higher than I was using in my final heavier training days. Good luck!

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