Beginning October 6, in St. Charles, Missouri, I will begin my 8 week journey to complete 8 marathons to raise money for the Kansas City chapter of the JDRF. This journey will combine my passion for running so I can raise money for a great cause that is near and dear to my heart and to my family. My wife, Karen, has type 1 diabetes. She has had it since she was 2 years old and is very healthy and we are going to run together in New York City which will be my 6th marathon of my 8 marathons.
I think it’s is important to give a little perspective of what it is like to be a runner and have diabetes. The training I am going through to run 8 marathons in 8 weeks doesn’t come close to the struggle my wife Karen goes through each and every day of her life to maintain her blood sugar and keep herself healthy. Then you throw training for a marathon on top of everything. That is a lot of stress. I am so proud of her for pushing her self and staying focused on the prize…crossing the finish line on November 3 in New York City.
I am not going to provide any advice on how to manage diabetes while you are running. This is just to share, firsthand, what one type 1 diabetic (T1D), my wife, goes through to train for a marathon. Your experiences may be totally different or they might be very similar. Feel free to share your story in the comment section. If this article moves you or puts things in perspective for you please consider donating to my cause by clicking here.
Fortunately for wife, she already exercises daily so she had a very strong base with regard to fitness. She is very healthy and exercises regularly because she learned early on that exercise is crucial to being healthy and managing diabetes.
The difficulty that diabetes plays in training/running is monitoring and managing your blood sugars while you are running. A normal fasting blood sugar is between 70 to 100. Her “sweet spot” is around 100-120. Typically the biggest struggle is on the long runs that are over 6-8 miles long. You know those 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20 milers we all endure during our training?
If my wife wakes up the morning of the long run with low blood sugar then we have to get her blood sugar up before running. If she is high (higher than
200) we had to get her blood sugar down. Before we even start running we have to get that adjusted and very rarely does she wake up right where she needs to be. She has very good control but for whatever reason on long run day it never works out. I attribute that to stress which can affect blood sugar levels.
The next struggle is monitoring blood sugars during the run. We typically have to stop for a few minutes, get out the blood tester and strips without dropping them. Setting up the equipment and then sticking the finger for a blood sample. Try getting a sample of blood on a cool morning…not very easy. We carry juice when we run in case she needs it if she is low. If she is high we have to guess on giving some insulin based on previous runs and what happened. Thankfully she has an insulin pump so it makes dosing very easy.
She has to watch the Gatorade and GU as that can spike her blood sugar so she practically doesn’t train with those fuel sources that we all get to enjoy. We have also found that her blood sugar tends to go up during the long run. Normally, during exercise, it should go down so that adds some excitement to the run as well.
My wife mentioned to me that she never really thought about Diabetes as being a pain or a struggle since she has practically had it her entire life. But when she started running, that is when she started to really dislike her disease and wished it wasn’t a part of her life. I wish it wasn’t a part of her life as well. This year she has developed an IT Band issue and plantar fasciitis. Being diabetic doesn’t help the healing process with those issues so it just compounds everything else. Needless to say, it has been a difficult year for my wife, but come heck or high water she is determined to finish the New York Marathon this year.
Editors Note: We at JDRF cannot thank Brian enough for his incredible support and tackling not only 8 marathons in 8 weeks, but raising money for T1D research. To keep up with Brian’s story you can follow his blog at runningformywife.com.
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