Running the New York City Marathon With Low Blood Sugar

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Michael Aviad - NYC Marathon

November 1st, 2015, was one of the best days of my life.

It hasn’t take me four months to figure this out, it’s just how long it’s taken me to tell you about it. I knew it was a highlight of my life around noon on that day, while running through the streets of Brooklyn. The most amazing crowds I had ever seen cheered me and the other thousands of runners participating in the NYC marathon.

It was my 10th marathon and it came after almost two years of injury and slow recovery. It was far from my fastest marathon (3:29:51), but it felt like a true victory.

I arrived at the marathon a little undertrained and still feeling my hamstring injury. But I knew I could do it if I took it easy. I paced myself and stuck to my plan. Everything seemed to go smoothly until the 20th mile when my right leg cramped. I stopped for a minute, stretched out my leg, and continued running.

I kept my pace down and seemed to be fine. Somewhere on 5th Avenue before turning into Central Park, I started feeling very sluggish. I tried to increase my pace, but couldn’t. As we turned into the park I felt my body slowing down, but since it was the last few miles of the marathon I didn’t think too much of it. (The truth is that at that point I couldn’t think about much more than my next step.)

When we came out of the park on 59th St., a young Italian runner dropped to the ground, exhausted. I felt so sorry for him. There was less than a mile to go.

Michael Aviad - NYC Marathon - Crossing the Finish LineI felt like I was about to do the same, but somehow, sluggish, light-headed and heavy-footed, I continued running. I crossed the finish line at 3:52:56.

I was exhausted. And happy.

I got my medal and bag of goodies, and started walking towards the exit. A few minutes later I decided to check my blood sugar (something I hadn’t done since the start of the marathon). It was 60.

I opened the bag of goodies, took out the apple, and slowly ate it. It was around 2:30 p.m. and the apple was my first food of the day (aside from the three gels I’d consumed during my run).

As I walked toward the exit, thinking about the last miles of the race, I made a decision. I’m going to get a CGM, even if I have to pay for it myself. In life with Type 1 diabetes, the stakes are always high. The 60 at the finish line scared me. Had I gotten to the finish line five minutes later, who knows what could have happened.

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Comments (4)

  1. Mike R at

    Congratulations on finishing your tenth marathon! I’m a T1 cyclist and know the feeling of finishing a long ride low or high. I’ve been wearing a CGM for about 8 years and wouldn’t give it up. The CGM (now a DexCom but originally a Medtronic) isn’t super-accurate during my bike rides but I really appreciate it after the event, especially at night, when my BG is still a bit haywire. Good luck and keep on running!

  2. Zoe at

    Hi Michael, I am curious: How can you go without testing? What was your BG before you started? Did you take in carbs during the marathon? I had a DEXCOM that broke before the marathon, so I tested at every mile. I was wearing my pump, but my blood glucose was running so consistently low that I disconnected completely around mile 7, and never needed to put it back on. I eat an ACCEL-GEL about every 30 minutes, depending on my BG. I was around 70-100 for the last 19 miles.

  3. Hi Zoe,

    Great seeing you during the marathon.
    I test while I train and before the marathon (like 5 times), and hope things workout. But, they don’t always.

    I got my CGM two months ago and I’m trying to learn how to use the information during my runs but it isn’t as easy as it seems 🙂

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