Diabetic Running

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There are lots of DO’s and DONT’s in regards to running with diabetes. This blog covers the basics around the subject with a personal tale of my own to illustrate the challenges.

As a diabetic, you will understand the difficulties that come with regulating blood sugars. A change in your diet, daily routine, stress levels or even for no apparent reason, your blood glucose levels can end up ridiculously high or low. Imagine then, the challenge of running regularly, whether it’s a marathon or a fun run.

Firstly I would like to make a few points;

– Diabetes and running DO go together.
– Always take sweets with you, no matter how long or short your run is.
– Always test blood sugars before and after a run (even during if need be)
– Always carry ID or tell someone you are running with that you have the illness.
– Listen to your body.

Now let’s, go over these points. Diabetes has actually aided my overall health and as they say, exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle. Running regularly helps to maintain blood sugar levels and ensure that they don’t spiral out of control as the exercise helps to keep your BS levels under 10mmol even a couple of days later. However, never assume that as you are running only a short course that you don’t need sweets, anything from the terrain to the heat especially can have an adverse effect on your sugar levels, without sweets, this is potentially fatal.

Making sure you test your blood sugars before and after a race, over time, will give you a good indicator or what levels you need to be between before and after a run. For me, I will run around 10 miles without taking on extra carbs, if my levels are anywhere between 5 & 13. I find personally that my levels tend to raise during a training session, due to the glucose being released into my body of course not being counteracted by insulin for obvious reasons. Any lower and of course for a run over 10 miles (where my sugars begin to fall), I will either take on carbs before or during my run.

Telling someone/ carrying ID is imperative, if you suffer a hypo, you will always stand a better and faster chance of recovery if your running partner or passer by knows your health issues. This happened to me during last years Virgin London Marathon 2010. All of my training runs had gone to plan, taking just one bottle of Lucozade and constantly sipping from about mile 15. The plan was to complete the course in under 3 hours and all training had pointed towards this being a possibility. Weeks before I had ran the Essex 20 in 2hrs16 and maybe gained a little arrogance along the way. Back in London, I hit mile 19 and my eyes were going “starry” or “solarised” if you prefer, I knew I was dipping and the classic symptoms were upon me, typically acting drunk. I was all over the place. I slowed down and luckily found a discarded sports drink by the curb, I picked it up & downed it before crashing out at a St Johns ambulance stand. It was completely out of the blue and I can only attribute the hypo to the severe heat on the day. Needless to say the ambulance staff were great and within half an hour after a lie down and some more sugar, I was on my way, finishing the race in 3hrs55, a little later than planned, but still alive.

Finally, listen to your body. I ignored signs and thought that I’d be able to get away with dipping low, just for one day, just for the glory of finishing my first marathon in under 3 hours. It wasn’t worth it, and there will be plenty more chances in my lifetime to achieve this goal, I guess its just frustrating, but ignore diabetes at your own risk.

In my next blog I’ll look on a slightly brighter side of running with the illness, including PB’s, charity and nutritional tips.

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