Running a Marathon with type 1 diabetes

//Running a Marathon with type 1 diabetes

How to Run a Half Marathon With Type 1 Diabetes

Guest Blogger: Jacob Seltzer guest blooger

My name is Jacob Seltzer, I am 20 years old, and a Type 1 Diabetic. I was diagnosed with diabetes on my half birthday, November 21, 2011 at the age of 15. I have had diabetes for roughly 5 years and I do not let it get in my way. I am currently going into my junior year of college at Stony Brook University as an athletic training major.

Recently, I decided to start up my own blog. My reasoning behind this was to spread awareness of the disease, better educate people, and most of all serve as a peer to help newly diagnosed diabetics cope with their disease. This blog, among so many
others online today, will have to serve us as we work together to find a cure for this disease.

I have also entered a contest from Runner’s World magazine, to be featured on the cover of the December issue!

Please vote for me at the Runner’s World website!!


Running 26.2 miles sounds pleasant right? I’m sure many people reading this disagree. Pleasant isn’t the right word to use for long distance running. However, it is one of the most rewarding things that I have ever experienced. One thing that I have learned is training for this distance is not an easy thing to do. In fact, mentally it can be very draining. All runners experience the highs and lows of running while training for a marathon (or any other race), however, as a runner with diabetes, you literally experience highs and lows with running.

jacob photo


There is no such thing as a perfect training strategy since everyone is different, but a beginner plan is the way to start off. My mom bought me a book consisting of three training plans for half marathons and three training plans for full marathons all of which include a taper period (shortened distances by the end of the training). In order to truly understand the struggles of running with diabetes, it would help to go back 2 years to my senior year of high school.


My senior year of high school marked my 2 year diaversary, and everything seemed under control. This was my year to shine. I was named captain of my cross country team, and I was ready to run my best times yet.  Although I was mentally prepared, my body disagreed. I was going through this phase where no matter what I did, no matter how high my blood sugar started, with any type of exercise, my sugar would immediately drop. As a result, I wasn’t even able to run 1 mile so it couldn’t have been possible to run a 5k (3.1 miles) as is the typical distance for cross country. It was then that my parents found Gary Scheiner and Integrated Diabetes Services. The team at IDS helped me come up with a personal plan in order to make sure my numbers stayed steady through the run and throughout the rest of the day as well. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to perform to my highest ability in cross country, nor did I ever complete a race without having to stop that season. However, indoor and outdoor track season was my time to shine. I broke 5 minutes for the mile, and 11 minutes for the 2 mile, times which a lot of runners aspire to meet.

Training for the marathon:

January, 2016: the start of my marathon training. The marathon training plan consists of 16 weeks of running prior to the event, leaving plenty of room for trial and error. I had to be in the best shape of my life, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me, especially diabetes. So what did I do? I ran. I gave it my all. If I wasn’t tired by the end of my workout I was doing something wrong. Of course complications did arise, but nothing too worrisome. I experienced blood sugar spikes in the time after my long runs so I needed to learn to adjust my insulin in order to correct that, and prevent high blood sugars.


Jenny from Integrated Diabetes worked with me to ensure that I reached my fitness goals and stayed safe while doing so. This included proper training, nutrition (prior to runs, during runs, and post runs), and diabetes management.  We did a lot of evaluation of basal rates and how my blood glucose responded based on the training session in order to get it set right. Surprisingly enough, the diabetes aspect of the training wasn’t that bad. As soon as we figured out how to deal with the rises and falls in my blood glucose, everything else was adjustment in the running piece.  The hardest part by far was finding the motivation to train but sometimes the best motivation is the desire to succeed, and that’s what pushed me through the long runs…especially those runs in the pouring rain.


Everyone is different. Every body functions differently, and the same goes for diabetes management. As a result, I needed to see what worked for me. The thing that is hard is that it won’t work exactly the same for everyone. Experimentation, record keeping and trial and error are key.

Running the marathon:

May 1st, 2016: race day. This was it. This was my time to shine…maybe not, as there was no sun in sight. Nothing but cloudsand eventually rain. As soon as it was time to start, I wadexcom for J marathons ready; nothing was going to stop me. The first half of the race, I maintained an 8 minute pace throughout and, according to my dexcom, steady blood sugars. Perfect. Everything was consistent until mile 21 when I felt like I could push it more, and that’s exactly what I did. Despite the pouring, cold rain, I ended up finishing the race in 3:24:07; placing first in my age group!  Phenomenal. Unreal. Anything is possible…New York Marathon 2016, I’m coming for ya! Although diabetes will be with me though it all, it’s not going to win unless I throw in the towel…but that’s never gonna happen.

By |2016-12-08T23:26:42+00:00May 31st, 2016|Thinking Like A Pancreas Blog|8 Comments

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  1. Dallas Valentine June 12, 2016 at 4:08 am - Reply

    Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Joe Ehlers November 25, 2016 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Congrats Jacob, good time!

  3. Rocky Walter December 18, 2016 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    I run trail races, so quite a different pace, but how did you handle eating and insulin on race day? On the morning of my 50K I had oat meal but took no bolus because I was afraid of a drop, but I ended up too high. It’s such a tricky balance.

    • Jacob Seltzer March 2, 2018 at 1:09 am - Reply

      Hey Rocky! Sorry for the really late reply, but if I can still be of assistance, I’d love to help out! Typically, when I run a race I like to stick with a higher-carb meal, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, and a banana. I typically eat 3 hours prior to the race so I give a full dose, but if I need to correct prior to the race, I typically give only 50% of the recommended bolus. Hope that helps!

  4. Lily Masters February 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Jacob, I am also a 20 year old T1D marathon runner/ athlete. I am wondering what type of diet you eat? I found the best way to control spikes and drops during exercise is to eat an extremely low carb diet. Since we are approaching spring race season I am cracking back down on my diet. Just searching the web for tips!

  5. Patrick Manning December 24, 2017 at 6:29 am - Reply

    I rcently came upon your site and have had a fairly long run with Type 1 Diabetes and running. I have just started my 50th year of taking shots and at 66 I have spent many miles and years on the roads. I have had the fortune of meeting some incredible runners and friends that have helped me along the way and an endocrinologist that understood that running 40-80 miles in the late 70s and 80s, however rare or not known about, was doable. I knew I was in good hands when I told him I wanted to go sub 3 hours in my first marathon, and he responded, “what’s your best 10K time?” Bingo! It took a few marathons to meet the first goal, but after about 7 years I was down to 2:47:58. 12 marathons startsand 12 finishes. For several I ran to keep weight off and to maintain blood sugar levels. Nothing serious. No racing. For the last 4 years I have been training for another marathon with many setbacks. I’ve gotten close to being ready on multiple occasions, only to be sidelined by an injury. So as you can imagine, with a fair bit of frustration, I’ve tried to tweak my traing to stay healthy and fit and ultimately to reach my desired goal.. The goal has always been to Qualify for Boston, again. It has been many years since I started my journey and as we all know it is different for each of us. The big “however” is that certain things are consistent. For example running a 7 miler in the morning – blood sugars stay normal, running a 7 miler in the afternoon – blood sugars can crash… hard efforts raise the blood sugar until the miles build and drag it down. With the technology and devices that are available to us today and the ease of communicating information, I really believe that we should see Type 1 diabetic runners finish in the 2:45 – 3:30 range. If we share what we experience in some concrete form- how we train, how we taper, how we race, how we eat and maintain blood sugars, how we sleep, etc., etc., we will take our running to new and safer level. There is “seriousness” about the marathon distance, but I also know sharing of our experiences and information can make it achievable for many more Type 1 Diabetics.

  6. Kacy August 9, 2018 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    Hi, Jacob –

    Thank you for sharing your story about your journey with T1D.

    I am also a T1D from 9 years old. Five years ago I started doing triathlons.I’ve also run 6 – 13.1 races. All of that to say, I’m now training for my first full marathon in October of 2018.

    I’ve gone through a lot of up’s and downs. The lowest of lows came one week from my first attempt at a half-ironman. My last long ride and no matter what I did I could not get my glucose to rise. I had to cancel the race due to the fear and concern I had. I’ve been on an insulin pump for years now. After this incident, I got word that Medtronic introduced their new 670G closed loop monitoring system, which I currently have.

    All my short runs are going great no lows. However, my long runs I realize that I start to drop. I carry honey stingers chews, gels and Gatorade on my person. I eat a nice bowl of steel cut oats with a little protein. I also suspend basal delivery for the run and test every 30 min- an hour I’m out because my CGM is only accurate based on the weather pattern and with this heat and the sweat I can’t get the transmitter to stay in place.

    1) Do you bolus on long runs if you are in a suspended basal delivery when taking on nutrition?
    2) Can you share any tips on how your management change say after mile 10?
    3) I recently invested in the Nathan run vest that’s able to hold everything I need; do you have any other product suggestions that work well for you?

    • Pat Manning September 12, 2018 at 6:08 pm - Reply

      Kacy – I wanted to comment on your question to Jacob. This is Pat Manning who responded to Jacob as well. There are always things to be factored that we don’t always talk about. The marathon distance alone for everyone is tough. Your questions and answer are experimentation, and I know of no one that will bolus for 9-10 mile run. After that it’s a new game. I would bolus for 18-20 mile training days. I would tell my doctor that I am having a glass of milk, a ham and cheese sandwich and an apple before I would hit the door.Sure I would be high but the grind of the workout would drag it down. As we know the faster the pace the more the carb burn. I was not as fast and talented as Jacob but over time was able to improve. At age 35, sub 5 at the mile and sub 2:48 at the marathon. Improving as a runner and a Type 1 diabetic takes time. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself but don’t overthink it. You know what to do.

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