Ready, Set, GO! Any Diabetic Runners?

Hey guys,

I just signed up for a marathon training program through the American Diabetes Association. The program starts in August and we’ll be training for the annual PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that will take place here in Phoenix in January 09.

Besides the group runs, support and guidance from coaches, and fun events, we will be raising money for the ADA.

I’m super excited, but I’ve never run a marathon before. Any experienced runners with diabetes willing to share some of their wisdom?

Learn more about the ADA’s Team Diabetes here.

Lot’s of diabetic runners around, Mike. Check out the Athletic Diabetics group here at or the Diabetic Runners group at Then there’s always the blog page of The Diabetic Runner at, of all places, !!

I’ve run the L.A. Marathon twice since being diagnosed and trained both times with Team in Training, mostly because I couldn’t find a ADA or diabetic supporting sponsor. I’m glad you found one.

The primary thing to be concerned with, especially as you go on longer and longer runs, is keeping your blood sugar level up and keeping hydrated. This means carry water, plenty of fast acting carbs and your meter. I carry glucose tabs and my UltraMini, which is perfect for testing when on the go. I carry them on a small belt I found at the Long Beach half-marathon which was intended to be used to carry I.D. and cell phones. It’s basically an elastic strap with a stretchable pouch attached.

Oh, yes. Always carry I.D. and medicalert bracelet/necklace/card. Don’t forget to tell your coach you’re diabetic. The coach will likely say he/she knows what to do or has trained diabetic runners before, but don’t count them really understanding what’s going on.

Get a copy of “the Diabetic Athlete” by Sherri Colberg for tips about basal insulin and bolusing. Your profile indicates that you’re using MDI. I use a pump so my strategies are different.

If you can’t cut back on you basal insulin or long acting insulin you might try carbing up before your longer runs. If you eat within an hour or two before your runs, reduce your bolus or correction dose because running is going to reduce your BG even further. For instance, I reduce my correction bolus by a full unit if I’m going to be running within two hours after eating.

It doesn’t hurt to start out your run with your BG a little high, even as high as 200. It should come down soon. Test often, every 30-40 minutes. You’ll soon master the art of testing while walking, but don’t sweat it - stand still if you have to.

If you’re running long distances, it doesn’t hurt to keep the carbs pouring in during the run. Sports gels are good, though not tasty, watered down sports drinks are good, I like pretzels and hard candies. Believe me they are not going to bite you in the ■■■ and it’s frankly better to be running with a slightly high BG than to go low, because your lows will come on fast and hard.

Keep track of your BGs after the run, too, because you can still go low. don’t start chowing down on everything at the training table, use moderation (as in all things). If you try to use some of the ‘recovery’ drinks or foods on the market watch out because they are literally packed with carbs. Adjust accordingly.

DO NOT, IMHO, consider cutting off your insulin during a run because within a few hours you’ll have NO insulin and are risking ketoacidosis.

Thats my experience, in brief. Your mileage will vary. Test and try different things to see what works for you. Boiled down to its simplest terms, my advice is “Test often. Watch out for lows.”

Most of all - have fun! Keep up with your training and have a great run in Phoenix!!

I’ve not run marathons, but I do communications support at Mile 20 of the NYC marathon and my task is usually liaison with the medical team.

If you are on MDI, consider figuring a way to have your insulin, as well as your meter, available during the run.

Last year we had an incident with a runner who had gone low relatively early in the race, grabbed a snack to bring himself back up, and ended up at the Mile 20 med tent sick and extremely high, and unable to get safely back to his insulin at the finish line. (He ended up being evacuated to a nearby hospital.)

Hi Mike,
I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been looking around for some good info on running with diabetes. I’ve been an on and off runner for a while now, but since being diagnosed about 6 weeks ago am more committed than ever to sticking with it. However, I do read the horror stories, and am trying to keeps tabs on my BS before and after runs. I don’t run far (certainly not marathon training distance), about 5-6 miles max at this point but even then my levels drop about 70-80 points, so I need to be aware of where I am at the start.
I look forward to learning more about how your training is going and maybe sharing some of my (limited) knowledge of the subject!!!
Keep on running!

Hey Mike! That is great news that you will be training!!
I just wanted to second what Terry said about experimenting and finding out what works for you. Like everything with D, I’ve found that it is soooooo difficult to get running races down to a science. There is so much trial-and-error involved with running, in my opinion. For me, for morning runs, I do not cut my basal rate unless I know I’ll be running well over an hour. Instead, I eat carbs that I know will keep me up for a while-- this usually means carbs that are paired with protein & fiber & have a prolonged glycemic effect. Kashi makes these protein “roll” bars that I’ve found are good for that. That bar, plus the effect of the adrenaline and dawn phenomenon on my bg, will keep me up throughout the race. The last 10K I ran, my bg when I ended the race was 171! But if I had run that distance by myself in the evening, I would have probably been 50 or below. So it takes a lot of practice. I have also learned not to expect perfection, and don’t be hard on yourself when you don’t get it right 100% of the time! I would also suggest running some 5Ks and 10Ks and maybe at half-marathon before the big day. That helps to be able to predict how running races affects your bg-- running races affects my bg VERY differently than training runs.
I also recommend Jamie’s blog over at He has a lot of great tips! The people who comment on the blog offer some great advice, too.
Good luck to you!! Please keep us posted on how things are going for you! :slight_smile:
Katie I.

I’m a diabetic runner. I mostly only do 5k runs because I like to race fast and medium distances. All I can say is its hard being a diabetic runner and you’ll have your highs and lows, its impossible to predict what your body is gonna do. I wouldn’t want to have my sugars above 180 when I’m running because it affects my performance, I just carry sugar on me when I run and try to have my sugar between 120 - 180 when I start. If you constantly make yourself high before you run you wont feel good on your runs and wont improve as fast. I did this for a while and now I don’t run if I’m above 200 and I can feel the difference.

Also if your on lantus or long acting insulin don’t run first thing in the morning without eating something. Ive done this a lot and almost every time my sugars rise really high because I don’t have any insulin in my body. Even just doing a shot of 1 unit and drinking a little juice or having a small snack will keep your sugars good.