Yes I did it, I finally did it. I ran a sub 4 marathon.
It took me two-and-a-half years and four marathons to finally get it right. It was a lot of work.: training hard, eating well and figuring out how to control blood sugar levels before and during long runs. It also took some good luck.
I spent the last four months training and experimenting. I figured out how much insulin I need before a long run, what to eat the day before, covering it with the right amount of insulin, and how to fuel during runs. I also lost a few pounds which never hurts.
For all runners the days leading up to the race are important. Nutrition and rest are key in running a good race. When you have diabetes this becomes even more important. Like most things, I learned this the hard way. So I carefully planned out the days leading up to the marathon.
I ran my last run (5 easy miles) four days prior to the marathon, and made sure to eat a little more carbohydrate during the next 3 days and hydrate myself.
The day before the race is the most important and usually the hardest since you are usually traveling. I carefully planned the day before the race knowing I would be driving up to Tiberias (2-3 hour drive) in the afternoon and eating dinner there.
Breakfast was a salad which included a can of tuna, 2 cucumbers, some lettuce, a red pepper and a cup of cold cooked quinoa dressed with apple cider vinegar and olive oil. For lunch I ate 2 medium sweet potatoes.
Since the traditional pre-marathon pasta dinner was not an option, I decided to not repeat last year’s mistake and bring my own food with me for dinner– a few grilled chicken breasts and 2 ½ cups of quinoa. I ate dinner with a friend (who brought his own pasta dinner) in the hallway of the hotel outside our rooms. I know it doesn’t sound like the greatest dinner setting, but it was perfect.
I went to sleep at around 10:00pm with an alarm set for 11:30pm to check my blood sugar. It took me over an hour to fall asleep so the alarm woke me up just a few minutes later. I checked my BS and it was 164, the same as it was when I’d gone to sleep. Happy to see the result, I went back to sleep and woke up at 6:00am to find that my BS was still around 160. Although high for a regular morning, this was perfect for race day. I went down to breakfast and had two cups of coffee and went back to my room to prepare for the race.
The weather was perfect. It had rained all day the day before the race but the forecast for race day was partly cloudy with temperatures of 53°F – 60°F (20 degrees lower than last year).
The race started at 9:00am. As the 1,500 runners started to run I felt the urge to speed up and get away from the crowd, but determined to run according to plan I held myself back. I continued to run sticking to my plan, pacing myself, and not giving in to the urge to speed up. I used energy gels to refuel (6 of them) and made sure not to skip over any of the water stops. I ran along the course enjoying the cool air and the warm winter sun. I talked to some nice people along the way and even appreciated the beautiful scenery.
Things were going great but at the 20-mile mark I felt my right calf cramping up. This was totally unfamiliar to me. I have never had a cramp during a run so I didn’t know what to do. I just knew I didn’t want to be like one of the many unfortunate runners I had passed by who were walking or trying to stretch out a cramp on the side of the road. So I continued running, but slowed down a bit every time I felt my calf muscle tighten.
At the 22nd mile I passed by the spot where I hit the wall last year. I smiled and continued running, noticing the huge difference in the way I felt. My leg hurt, and I was fighting a cramp, but there was no feeling of fatigue (thanks to carb loading, fueling during the race and the weather). As I got closer to the finish I realized I was finally going to do it. Feeling better (mentally) I managed to increase my pace slightly for the last mile. As I approached the finish line I could see the clock 3:5x:xx – I was going to do it and I felt great. I crossed the finish line clocking 3:57:14. I was, and still am, so happy… but my immediate thought was “could I have broken 3:55?”.
The one thing I didn’t think about once during the run was diabetes.