This post is written by Greg Weintraub, Captain of Team Joslin for the 2016 Boston Marathon.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on September 18, 2001. Nearly fourteen and a half years have passed since my diagnosis. I can tell you a lot of stories about my time with type 1 diabetes, but my experiences running marathons are the most important stories I can tell.
I started running in high school. For my first run, I put on a pair of running shoes and left my insulin pump behind. I only ran one mile that night, but I ran a mile away from the most tangible sign of my diabetes.
I found myself sitting in my college dorm room a few years later. I was ready to go for a run, but when I tested my blood sugar the number was very high. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go running as my first priority was bringing my blood sugar down to a normal level.
This was the first time my diabetes prevented me from accomplishing a goal. I was mad, so I did the only reasonable thing I could do, I signed up for my first marathon that night. The 2016 Boston Marathon will be my fourth marathon.
Training for a marathon with diabetes is challenging at times, and training for this marathon is no exception. I should note that an important part of my training is working closely with my healthcare team at Joslin, namely my endocrinologist, Dr. Howard Wolpert, who provides insight into how I manage my blood sugar before, during and after runs. There are few to no standard resources for people with type 1 diabetes who run marathons, and therefore, Dr. Wolpert is extraordinarily valuable as I continue to make running part of my life.
We still have a few months left until the marathon on April 18, and previous running experience has taught me that the length of my runs directly impacts how I manage my diabetes during and after a run.
At this point in my training schedule, many of my runs are shorter distances, typically seven miles or less. On these shorter runs, I have determined – with the assistance of my team at Joslin – that I can test my blood sugar before a run, raise my blood sugar as necessary, and go on a run. This approach allows me to keep my diabetes in check for an hour while I run.
This means that I have not had to test my blood sugar while I have been out running over the past month. I do, however, test my blood sugar if I experience an emergency, such as a low blood sugar, and after a run.
My training will change as I start to complete longer runs. I will spend more time managing my diabetes while I am running, instead of just spending time managing my diabetes before and after my runs.
I recently graduated from college and this marathon will be my first since graduating. This might seem insignificant, but this simple change creates big differences in my training.
I am very lucky to be working with an amazing healthcare technology startup in Boston that allows me the flexibility I need to stick to my training schedule. However, working means a very different lifestyle compared to my carefree college days. I am learning how to balance a demanding training schedule with a full-time job. It turns out that the best time for me to go running is after work. My only concern is keeping safe and managing my diabetes at night – and after an intense run. This is but one example of learning how to do well at work and in training.
My family is working with the team at Joslin to keep my diabetes in check while I run and work. I have learned many lessons as a marathon runner, but the most important lesson that I have learned is that running, like life, is a team sport. My family, my doctors and my colleagues all provide significant support to push me to the finish line. I am forever indebted to the people who are providing this support.
Check back next month to follow along my journey with Team Joslin as we continue to run towards a diabetes cure in the 2016 Boston Marathon.