Running Without an Insulin Pump


I decided to see what would happen if I disconnected from my insulin pump and ran without it. So last week, after deciding to try it, and against the advice of some pumpers, I did it. I woke up an hour before my run reduced my basal rate to 30% like I always do, had my coffee and got ready to run. Before heading out I checked my blood sugar, suspended my pump and took it off.


It felt great. I felt free. I still had a pack with my glucose meter, gels and keys around my waist but there was something liberating about not having the pump and tubing on me. I ran a short 6 mile run, but still stopped to check my blood sugar a few times. My blood sugar was fine and I didn’t need a gel to keep my blood sugar in a see range. The only thing the bothered me was my infusion site which itched from the minute I started to sweat. I realized it was time to switch sets anyway so a couple of miles in to my run I ripped the set out and threw it in a garbage can. This, too, felt strangely liberating.  If only you could rip out diabetes and throw it in the trash.


The next day (last Wednesday) I decided to try running pumpless again, but this time for a longer run – 9 miles. I did need a gel after around 3 miles but that was it. I had another good run although my blood sugar was a bit high when I had finished – 168. I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad. It had been 6 miles since I had taken a gel and my blood sugar was too high to take another. Would it have come down had I continued running another couple miles? I’m not at all sure.


For the next run – what was supposed to be a 20 mile run, but ended up being a terrible 13 miler on a treadmill at CWD Friends for Life, I decided I wasn’t taking any chances and kept my pump on at the usual rate (30%). Again I consumed 3 gels, two of them with in the first 4 miles of my run.


So considering my need for gels so early in the run, I decided to to try running pumpless for my next shorter runs. I ran 3 and a little miles on Saturday afternoon and then Monday morning I ran 10 miles. I had a great run in the early morning Orlando humidity, but again my blood sugar seemed to be a little too high. I had 1 gel and finished my run at around 170.


I ran a couple more pumpless runs and had similar results. So this morning, I decided to try something else. I was supposed to run 19 miles and was scared to try it with out a pump. I was also going to be running alone near my uncle’s house outside of Atlanta. I  lowered my basal to 20% and drove down to the river, parked the car (where I left a big bottle of water) checked my blood sugar – 135 – and was out running by 5:00 a.m. I ran the first few miles in the dark not seeing any other runners. I stopped after 3 miles to check my blood sugar it was 69. I had a gel and a little water and continued running.

I ran another six miles and checked my blood sugar again, it was 88, I had another gel and continued. I checked my blood sugar a few more times but my blood sugar was above 150 throughout my run. I actually felt like I needed a gel, for energy not for blood sugar control, but was too high to have one.


I ran 17.5 miles, less than I had intended but still a good distance. I’m going to have to figure something else out since it seems like lowering my basal rate and disconnecting will not work for the long runs. I need to be able to take gels throughout the run not just during the first few miles.   And if I’m going to take gels, I need to have insulin.


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10 years ago

I can run without my pump in hot weather (when I am more likely to go low) for about an hour (6 miles).  If I do more than that, I end up high so I have to wear my pump.  What seems to matter more is the duration of the exercise, not the mileage.  In addition, I have to wear my pump (or at least reconnect and periodically bolus) for any activity that causes excitement or an adrenaline rush (such as a road race).  Those sorts of things push my BG up higher.  The good thing is that, with my… Read more »

Nathan Shackelford
10 years ago

Yes, from my experience, you need that insulin to get the energy from the gels. I tried to turn off my pump on a day-long bike ride once and just ran out of energy even though my blood sugar was perfect. Now I know I need just a bit of insulin and some sugar when I go over 90 minutes of exercise.

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
10 years ago

I wonder to what extent the hormones and metabolic changes associated with the fear of running without a pump actually change your blood sugar when you run without it. A form of a Heisenbug ( ) in which trying to figure out what your blood sugar pattern is without a pump is impossible, because the act of trying to test and study it changes the results… !

10 years ago

You did right always check BG levels. Could always adjust.

Chris Scully-Brown
10 years ago

I’m thinking you need to eat something before your run. Something like a banana or a Clif bar.
the rest sounds super confusing!
It took me forever to get the balance just right so that I can take in gels for normal human energy requirements and not just for BGs.

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