What to Eat When Traveling with Diabetes to Run a Marathon


Milano City Marathon logoTraveling with diabetes is always a challenge, but traveling to run a marathon with diabetes is really challenging. In a way I feel like running the marathon itself is the easy part.  Getting there with my blood sugar in range, my body fueled and feeling good – that’s the real challenge.

I usually handle traveling with diabetes by cutting out all carbs and testing my blood sugar as often as I can. But since I’m running a marathon, I need to figure out how to fuel my body before the race.  In other words, I have to eat some carbs without losing blood sugar control.  It’s not something that usually works well for me.

For the last few days I’ve been trying to plan my eating for the day before the marathon.   But taking all my food with me is not really an option, especially since international travel is involved (not to mention that bringing your own food to Italy is somewhat of a culinary crime).

Over the last few years I’ve become very good about pre-race eating, carb loading enough to have energy, but without screwing up my system. It wasn’t easy learning how to eat carbs the day before, while avoiding lows and highs. But my pre-race routine usually takes place in the comfort of my own home, or at least just a short ride away.

My one other international marathon, the 2011 Rotterdam Marathon, was a bit of a disaster. Then, like now, the Tel Aviv marathon had been postponed and that was the reason I registered for a marathon abroad (although I did have more than two weeks notice).

I was a much less experienced runner then and I wasn’t all that low carb either, but I was aware of the complications that a big past dinner could make. So the night before the marathon I decided to skip the traditional pasta dinner and ate… PIZZA!!! (I know, not the smartest move.) The marathon did not go as planned although I did enjoy the event. (Full description of that marathon here)

So, I’ve been stressing and trying to figure out how to go about eating in Milan before the race.  I’ll probably eat some sort of carb for lunch and try to go lite at dinner.  (After the race will be easy and I don’t care how high or low I go :-)).

This morning while running with some of the guys from my group who are also going to the Milano City Marathon, I voiced my dilemma.

“I don’t know what I’ll eat before the race, it’s a bit of a problem,” I said while cooling down from a quick half mile interval.

“Yeah, I wonder if we’ll find a place that serves pasta,” was the crack I heard from one of the guys in my group.

He knew what I meant but couldn’t resist.

One of the things I’ve learned, as a diabetic is that plans usually change and that the final decision will depend on circumstances – the food available and my blood sugar.   It’s the epitome of diabetes irony: you have to totally prepare and plan, but the fact that you do  guarantees nothing.

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Catherine Price
9 years ago

Hi Rob,
Maybe we should talk.
I’ll send you an email.

Rob Woolfson
9 years ago

I am doing the 170km Mount Hermon bike ride next week, I am very worried about being able to eat enough.  Can you point me in a good direction about carb loading please.
many thanks 

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