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Can Diabetics Safely Run Marathons?

Can Diabetics Safely Run Marathons?

Running is an enjoyable pastime to many, as well as one of the simplest, easiest ways to exercise. Requiring only a pair of shoes and a stretch of road, running is often used as a weight management tool for men and women with diabetes. Running a few miles each day and running a marathon, however, are two very different animals—particularly if you have diabetes.

Your Body When Running

When you run, you’ll notice a few things: you may be out of breath, your muscles will reach a point of difficulty continuing, your muscles will become sore, and your heart rate will increase. Shortly after exercising, your muscles may begin to feel tight and in need of a good stretch, your heart rate will slow, and your breathing will go back to normal.

The internal mechanisms involved are eventually responsible for converting the food you take in into energy, and expending that energy on the burst of speed and exertion required to run. Over time, expending a greater amount of energy will lead to weight loss, while taxing your muscles will lead to improved stamina and stronger musculature.

Diabetes and Running

Running can be a great source of exercise for diabetes patients. The form of exercise itself is readily accessible to most people, and does not require expensive gym memberships, a huge upfront investment, or a great deal of know-how. Running can be a safe, simple way to help keep blood sugar in check, as consistent running helps burn glucose and keep sugar levels within normal levels.

Diabetes and Marathons

Marathon running is somewhat different for people with diabetes; rather than focusing primarily on breathwork and keeping pace, diabetics must also factor in insulin levels, food, and drink. Timing your food and liquid intake is paramount in successfully completing long-distance runs. Failing to give your body plenty of food prior to your run could result in an episode of hypoglycemia in the midst of a marathon, which could prove extremely dangerous.

For diabetics, training for a longer period of time, and gradually building endurance is better than following a typical 8-16 week training regimen. Additionally, getting to know your body and its response to insulin, medication, and food is paramount if you hope to safely and successfully complete a full marathon.

Before engaging in any sort of dedicated fitness regimen, you should consult your physicians to make sure your diet and exercise fall within safe levels. Marathons are not necessarily safe for all diabetics; those with unstable blood sugar levels should not engage in training until blood sugar has been well-managed for several months.


Diabetes UK. Accessed 10/4/17.

Children with Diabetes. Accessed 10/4/17.

Active. Accessed 10/4/17.