Updated 17 February 2017

Tips for diabetic runners

Ever thought what a diabetic runner goes through when running a marathon?

How many tables are dedicated to you?

There are 4 diabetic tables. Look out for the Roche Lilly banner.

Special preparations

Runners with diabetes cannot carbo load as this will cause high blood sugars. It is advisable to keep to ones normal diet and the night before the race eat pasta. On the morning of the race eat some carbohydrate (e.g. toast and jam, a banana)

Emergency care

Carry a bag such as a Tripper pouch with the following:

  1. A packet of glucogel or high sugar substance that is quickly absorbed.
  2. A packet of jelly babies or glucose sweets.
  3. Blood glucose meter & test strips (optional). If you are running in a group it is not always convenient to stop at the diabetic tables. In addition it is not always easy to find the tables as there are a lot of spectators in the way and the tables are not always on the same side of the road. If you carry your own meter it takes the pressure off finding the diabetic tables.
  4. A card with your name, contact details, phone number of family or friend.
  5. A card stating you are a diabetic and what to do in case of an emergency:





I am an insulin dependent diabetic

Emergency procedures:

  1. If I appear confused or aggressive (but not passed out)

  • Give coke or liquifruit or glucose sweet
  • Then give a sandwich

    1. If I pass out

    • Immediately open packet of GLUCOGEL, squeeze into mouth and rub inside cheeks or gums.

    • If no response within 15 minutes get to doctor.

  • Blood tests (when, where, how) in training and during the race

    Test your sugar at the four diabetic tables if possible. If you carry your own meter you can do additional tests if necessary (e.g. if you are not sure if your wobbly legs are due to tiredness or low blood sugar!).

    How do you feel on the race (do you get tired quicker)?

    Your levels during the race will probably be on the low side - 3-4 mmol/L. Drink coke and eat on the way to maintain your levels.

    Differences between a diabetic and a "non?diabetic" runner

    A diabetic runner cannot carbo load.

    A diabetic runner must respond to low blood sugars immediately by taking in some form of sugar Wear a medic alert bracelet and carry emergency supplies and instructions (see above)

    Danger signs you should be aware of

    Some indicators that your blood sugar might be low:

    • You feel very weak
    • You “hit the wall”
    • You feel so hungry that you demolish any food in sight
    • The road comes up to meet your feet so that you feel unbalanced
    • You break into a severe sweat
    • You feel light headed

    If you have any of the above symptoms try and drink a sugary drink or eat from the tables, which provide potatoes, bananas, biscuits and sweets.

    Nutrition/fluid before, during and after the race

    It is not advisable to carboload. Everyone is different so your fluid intake during the race will vary and you will probably have learnt what your body requires during your long training runs. When I was first diagnosed I needed 250 ml liquifruit every hour to maintain my blood sugar at 6 mmol/L. Now if I have 1 X 250 ml of liquifruit my levels hit 22 mmol/L.

    Anything that you think is important and interesting...

    Analysis of the blood sugar levels from the diabetic tables indicates that it is normally the non diabetic runners that have the problems!

    On Comrades day

    Try and start the race with sugar levels of 6-9 mmol/L. If your levels are high they can go even higher during the race because there is not enough insulin in your body to enable sugar absorption. In this case take 1 or 2 units of insulin so that you start the race with acceptable levels.

    On Comrades day you should skip your insulin doses as the exercise lowers your blood sugar. Monitor your blood sugar and determine if you need to give yourself your 10 pm dose of insulin.

    Enjoy the race - you can eat sweets and chocolate on the way “legally”!

    Written by: Terry Everson



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