Home Type 1 Linda Carrier talks about managing type 1 diabetes as an ultrarunner

Linda Carrier talks about managing type 1 diabetes as an ultrarunner

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My sister, who is one year older than me, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was eight years old. So when she started showing her signs at age 14, she knew exactly what it was. I have already lived with this disease for 7 years.

I’m a very active kid, so having type 1 diabetes, which prevents the pancreas from producing insulin, doesn’t deter me from anything. That included running. I started at a young age but really got into it in the 90s and worked my way up from 4 miles to marathons.

As a runner, the way I manage my type 1 diabetes has evolved over the years.

At that time, I carried a blood glucose meter with me. I stopped midway through the race to test myself and drop some blood into the meter. It took about 3 minutes. Once you have your measurements, make your adjustments. My husband also came to see me at various points on the course with insulin injections in case my blood sugar levels got high.

Also, I always carried some kind of sweets with me, typically Swedish fish or Skittles. I still do this because you never know when you have diabetes. I don’t know if my stress levels are having a negative effect on my body, or if I have a mild cold that is affecting my blood sugar levels. To be honest, I used to have a hard time controlling my blood sugar levels while running.

These days, this process is much easier.

I wear a continuous blood sugar monitor on the back of my arm that checks my blood sugar levels and sends the information to my insulin pump (Medtronic MiniMed 780G). It’s about the size of an old-fashioned pager. I use it by hanging it on my belt loop. This pump provides me with insulin without the need for daily injections. During a run, your blood sugar levels will rise within the first two miles due to the exercise, but over the next few miles your blood sugar levels will drop. I have a combination of my insulin pump and a continuous blood sugar monitor that adjusts every 5 minutes.

linda carrier

Andy J. Scott

I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 47 years, but the way this pump works makes me feel like I’m non-diabetic again. Of course, if everything is working properly.

It’s important to plan for the worst so you don’t have to worry if something happens.

When your blood sugar drops, it’s like hitting a wall, but worse. Your vision becomes blurry and dark, and you can’t walk straight. I prepare for every race, including the recent World Marathon Challenge, where he completed seven marathons on seven continents in seven days.

So while most people are training their bodies to run on tired legs or trying out new running clothes, I also have to adjust my pump and test what I’m eating. Since I needed to eat more for this challenge, I had to think about what I could eat to maintain my blood sugar and energy levels while also taking into account muscle recovery. I worked with a nutritionist and trainer to come up with this drink mix that basically combines carbohydrates and protein. I drink it 30 minutes after my run.

On race day, you’ll also want to make sure you have fresh AA batteries in your insulin pump so you don’t run out of power during the race. I always make sure to change my insulin the day before the race because sometimes the cannula hits scar tissue and the pump doesn’t deliver enough and my blood sugar levels get high. And you have to worry about whether your pump can withstand the different temperatures on each continent. Needless to say, there’s a lot that the average runner doesn’t need to think about.

But for me, it’s all a challenge. If that doesn’t scare you, you’re not really challenging yourself. And I’ve always liked to challenge myself.


Linda Carrier, 61, is an author, ultrarunner, and the first woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons on seven continents in seven days) three times.

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