A Stupid Diabetic's 20 Mile Run

Today was twenty mile run #5 - the last one. This was the 1 that was supposed to be my final dress rehearsal for the marathon - same gels, same drink, same everything. But boy did that go wrong.

The FIRST goal plan called for a 7:55 effort, but the FIRST book said that those seeking a 3:15 for BQ should go for a 7:41, so that's what I set my goal at. I also wanted to experiment with a slightly negative split, so I thought I'd go 7:45 for the first ten, and 7:35 for the last ten.

On the drive to the trail, I noticed my Garmin wouldn't start... I had my other watch with me, and the trail's marked but I'm sooo spoiled by the Garmin, I knew I was upset about that. But actually I'm getting ahead of myself. The problem started before that.

When I woke up, my blood sugar was 74. Generally speaking, I skip insulin with my lunch on a lunch-time workour and take about 75% of the insulin I need with breakfast prior to a morning run. Due to the dawn phenomenon, exercise doesn't lower by blood sugar as much in the morning. I know - have known this for quite some time, mind you.

Despite this, for some some reason I decided 74 was too low going into a 20 mile run and I decided to skip my insulin. I don't have a good reason for this. I've done it before and it never - never - works out.

Anywho, I hit the trail and hit the 5 mile mark about a minute in front of my goal and take gel 1. Heading into the 10 mile mark, my pace slows a bit, but the last 2 miles on that trail tend to run slow, so I wasn't too concerned about it. I hit the half-way point dead on for 7:45 - 1:17:30.

I noticed something was wrong immediately on mile 11. Because I was doing an out-n-back, miles 11 and 12 are usually fiendishly fast - easily accomplised in 7:20-7:30. Yet, I struggled to do them in 7:40. Subsequent miles were all accomplished in 7:41, but my body had no intention of going faster.

Going into the 15 mile mark, I decided to skip my gel. At this point, I suspected my blood sugar was high but I wasn't sure and didn't want to bonk. Also, I didn't have my blood sugar kit (dumb, dumb, dumb).

The last five miles were majorsuckypainful but I told myself that - whatever the reason - the marathon would probably have a similar level of suckitude and I just gritted my teeth and tried to keep the wheels on.

At the 19 mile mark, my mp3 player's battery died. That's the kind of run this was.

I finished in 2:35:02 - Perfectly even splits and a 7:45 for the whole thing. A totally gutsy effort and a decent - if not great - result.

And my friggin' blood sugar afterwards was 280 - 3 times the normal level. I took a boatload of insulin and had it down within 90 minutes, but I'm so much more sore today than the other 20 milers... I think my blood would've rather been moving around oxygen and electrolytes than unprocessed sugar during the run.

More than anything, I'm ticked at myself for kind of messing up the last good dress rehearsal. I'm also now painfully aware of how bad the marathon can go if I don't keep the blood sugar in check.

All of that being said, there are bright spots:
1) With this run, the taper begins. My plan doesn't have much of a drop-off in intensity, but there's a decent drop off in mileage. That will be nice.
2) Of all the things on this plan that blew my mind, none was scarier than five 20 mile runs. Yet I did them all.
3) Of those five, today was my fastest, even with a hideous blood sugar.
4) I may not qualify for Boston, but I'm close enough that I have to try. Today's scared me off trying to do a negative split, but not an even split. Boston for me is 7:27. I'm going out at 7:25 and holding it as long as I can.

Incidentally, I've read about diabetics getting into Boston who miss the qualifying time by a minute or two - saying that they stopped to do blood sugar tests. While I may stop for tests, I've made the decision not to do that... It's not Boston's job to bend the rules for my disability. It's my job to overcome it. And if I use my brain better at Harrisburg than I did today, that just might be enough.

Though as I recall, this week doesn't get much easier, let the taper begin.


  1. Anonymous3:43 PM

    Yow! Sounds painful.

    I like the idea of going out and trying to hold on. Should be one hell of a ride. Good luck to you.

    It would be something to qualify for Boston.

  2. "Incidentally, I've read about diabetics getting into Boston who miss the qualifying time by a minute or two - saying that they stopped to do blood sugar tests. While I may stop for tests, I've made the decision not to do that..."

    Hey, Marcus,
    I resemble that remark.
    It's not that common a story, and I have written about it on the web, so you're probably talking about me.
    First, it was 22 seconds, not "a minute or two".
    Second, it's a very easy thing to say that you wouldn't do. It's not likely to be an option you'll have a chance to consider.
    As it turns out, you missed by a few minutes, not less than half a minute. I missed my BQ by less than 10 minutes 5 times.
    I was reluctant to use my 3:31:21 to try to get into Boston. After more than a year of being told by friends and family that I should go ahead and do it, I finally went ahead with it. Maybe it was wrong, but I went, and I enjoyed it.
    For what it's worth, I ran a legitimate qualifier, 3:29:47, last month in St. George, Utah. So I may go to Boston next year.
    There's still time for you to qualify, too. I'd love to see you there.
    Jerry Nairn
    48 years old, 33 years type 1 diabetic, 40 marathons, all slower than yours.

  3. Hi Jerry,

    Thanks for taking the time to visit the blog. When I wrote that, I might have been thinking of your story, but maybe not, too - I read every diabetic running blog I find. Had I been referring to a specific story, I would've linked to it. While there may not be many blogs about "diabetic exception in boston," I assure you there are many many blogs about "exceptions in boston." Diabetes just happens to be mine.

    As far as wondering if what you did was "wrong," I don't consider it to be "right" or "wrong." One thing I've learned about diabetes is that it's different for everybody.

    I don't think any less of someone who does that, just as I wouldn't think any less of the many people who use the charity option to get into Boston. I simply wouldn't do it, myself.

    I happen to be rather pig-headed about my diabetes. That's probably not a good thing - my wife will tell you it certainly isn't - but it's just how I roll. :)

    Congrats on your 3:29:47. That's awesome!

    You won't see me there in 08, though - I'm going to run Steamtown in 08. See how weird I am? I won't cut my pancreas any slack, but I have no qualms about running downhill for 26 miles.


  4. After you get within 22 seconds of qualifying after checking your blood sugar during a marathon, you can tell me that again.
    I personally don't see the conflict between running Boston and Steamtown. One is in the spring, the other in the fall.
    Maybe you aren't up for training for and running more than one marathon a year, and I can understand that. I run several marathons a year, but my kids are grown. I don't have the same kind of responsibilities.
    I'm not telling you what I would do in your situation.
    But if you're only doing one marathon a year, clearly you're not going to run a Boston qualifier in the next few months. Steamtown next October doesn't enter into whether you'll run Boston in April.
    Congratulations on a great time.
    Best of luck for continuing marathon success, and good luck in Steamtown.
    I mentioned St. George. It has a lot of steep downhills, (and some uphills) but I've run it three times, and it's always been great for me. I did enough downhill training leading up to it.
    On the other hand, I'm running the Tucson Marathon on December 2nd. It has a lot of downhill at the start, and the four previous times I've run it, I've burned myself out in those early miles.
    I'm a slow learner sometimes.


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