It had always been something I had aspired to but never had the means to do it, until I started running at the beach with a friend. After making it from West Beach to Henley and back, I told Carolyn we had run 9km. She didn’t believe me, she had never run that far before. And I had only done most of my running on a treadmill. Then the Biggest Loser competitors were running a full marathon so I put it out there, that we could push it a bit further and try West Beach to Grange and back. That was 14km. At Carolyn’s birthday party, with some discussion with other people, we had the idea that we could try a half marathon – 21km. Carolyn, being an action oriented person, got online and found a the Barossa Half Marathon – about 6 weeks away. We had been running for 6 weeks so the training schedule we found, set up for the Sydney half marathon, was perfect.
That week, I went back to Jogger’s World to get new shoes. I found a glucose sachet for long distance running and new socks that were guaranteed to be blister free. Please, don’t believe this! They didn’t work! I talked to a good friend who is number 7 master runner in the world over 200 meters and got some good tips for training.
Thus started the seriousness. Hills, speed training, rest days and keeping to schedule. I started carrying a bum bag over my shoulder after I had a few hypos during training and as we were running along the esplanade, the Henley Hotel became a source of orange juice when I’d run out of my own juices. After some time, we realized carrying OJ was a bit of a nuisance, even a 600ml bottle of water was a pain. So I’d check my BGL before running and carrying muesli bars and Bellis apricot bars which had a low GI and enabled a more sustained release of energy. My body began to get used to the training, the beach was a favorite place and for hills, around my local area was good. Google Maps were fantastic in helping to measure out training routes and if the beach was too far to go and light was disappearing when day light saving finished, the local routes kept the running up.
2 weeks before the actual marathon, we did a trial run. West Beach to Grange, to West Beach and then back to Grange. We were sore as anything afterwards, shoes needed to be fixed, the glucose sachet was vile and better socks were required. That training run was essential to identify any areas we lacked. For me, I needed sugar at each end and my bum bag contained my glucose meter and phone. I needed to find a better solution to the glucose sachet. Although it certainly gave me a hit of energy, contained caffeine, and lasted 30 minutes before my energy needed replacing, it was yucky and not for me. Other people may find it quite useful and not yuk. There are a number of flavours and brands available, they are easy to carry, so if taste is not a problem for you, check them out.
It took some time to recover from that practice run, ice packs are imperative, voltaren gel was a great help also and standing in the sea after a run is also useful. But what we learnt was how to plan for the actual race.
A phone call to the organizers verified it was ok to drop off premade drinks, labeled with my name, which could be placed at each water station. This meant I didn’t have to carry juices. I doubled the amount of Gatorade in each bottle to be on the safe side. A supply of glucose tablets was also needed.
48 hours before the race, I ensured we were hydrating well, drinking a lot of water and eating high carbohydrates and protein meals. The night before, we packed ice packs, pillow cases, 5kg ice, food snacks and a change of clothes. A meal of red meat and veggies, more water and an early night was also on the menu!
The morning of the race, I had 2 eggs on 2 pieces of toast. I found that eggs work really well for me in helping to avoid hypos. My BGLs were around 13, and I had a couple of units of insulin which I probably didn’t need. In hindsight, I will leave this next time as I had already had long acting insulin on board. Having Addisons Disease also complicates things. I took a whole cortate tablet the night before and the morning also. This may have contributed to a higher BGL but also have me energy.
It took a while to get to the race start but we were all set and ready, then the gun went and we were off. Hills were first. I struggled a bit with low BGL so took glucose tablets. I had planned that the first water station didn’t have a drink for me and I was a bit worried but the glucose held me and the adrenalin also helped. Water stations were every 3.5km so I knew it would only be 20 minutes to the next one.
I reached the second station and grabbed my Gatorade. I didn’t need much of it, just to hydrate and energise me. More of it ended on me than in me – so I will put straws in the bottles next time! I noted that the water stations had a choice of cups or sachets of water – the sachets meant people could suck the water out and not spill it.
I kept passing people until I reached a group that was my speed. The kilometers passed and on the last leg, I wondered how far away I was from the end – could I do it in 2 hours??? I yelled out to someone how much further and he said “about a kilometer, not far”. I checked my watch and sprinted. I thought I had made it in 1hr 58 mins but the results later showed it was 2 hours 16 seconds. I had aimed for 2 hours 20 mins and managed to beat it! We had made it and achieved what we set out to do. The 48 hours after were important in managing my BGLs – I cut back my long acting insulin by a couple of units, kept up the cortisol/cortate and managed to avoid any hypos.
Now we are training for the 30km and full 42km marathon.
Anyone can do it – it just requires planning: 2-4 hours of sustained exercise will affect the glycogen in your liver. After 2 hours, your body will deplete the glycogen and begin to burn fat. Replacing this glycogen is crucial during the exercise to avoid hypos during and following the race.
- See your endocrinologist for any tips they might have;
- Check with the race organizers to have your own drinks available, at each water stations;
- Make sure you have good shoes – you live on your feet and you don’t want to lose them with poor fitting shoes. Joggers World or the Athlete’s Foot will ensure you are fitted, you profile assessed and what you intend to do in your shoes. If possible, get a couple of pairs of different ones and alternate training in them.
- Hydrate well in the 48 hours leading up to a run – eat well, high protein and carbohydrates and rest.
- On race day, eat a wholesome breakfast and ensure your BGLs are in a manageable range. Not too low and not too high. Your endocrinologist can help you plan your insulin levels.
- Carry a bum bag with a BGL monitor, insulin, glucose tablets and a mobile phone.
And most of all, have fun! It’s a fantastic experience and feels great to achieve something!