To complete a marathon has always been a life goal of mine, but I felt as though it was simply out of the picture with Type 1 Diabetes. I do always say that I try to not let my diabetes stop me doing anything, but a 42km race was where I would have drawn the line. Emily Vuong is a Type one Diabetic who completed the New York City Marathon this past November. She is proof that with the right training and preparation, it is absolutely possible to achieve any life goal with Type 1. Personally, this is one of the most inspiring stories I've heard to date. Hope you enjoy!
What inspired you to enter the NYC marathon?
My friend Britt (@typeonebritt on Instagram) ran it the year before and I saw how amazing it was! I’ve always secretly wanted to run a marathon, but never thought I could actually do it. I showed my partner Liam one of Britt’s posts one day and he said let’s just do it!
Did you tell your diabetes doctor of your plans to complete it?
No, I didn’t! I got lots of advice from my friends with type one who run a lot and I did a lot of my own research. After I started training I got help from my diabetes educator, who helped me adjust my basal and carb intake around my long runs.
Did you receive any discouragement to run such an extreme length with Type 1 Diabetes?
A LOT! Even my Mum didn’t want me to do it- she was so scared for me! Before I left for America, my Nanna said, “Don’t worry if you can’t finish it.. Don’t push yourself too hard!’ and I thought, ‘Geez, she doesn’t even think I can finish it!’.
How did you maintain your energy throughout the marathon?
Before the marathon I had a bagel, coffee and banana so I had fuel in my tank. Throughout the run I sipped on Gatorade at the water stops and took Maurten gels as I needed them.
How did you keep up your sugar level throughout?
It was tough managing my blood sugars with all the adrenaline pumping through my system. I was so nervous and it really spiked my blood sugars at the start of the run. My levels stayed on the higher side for most of the run. I gave two tiny doses throughout to keep the ketones away and to make sure I was still able to take my gels, which I needed for energy.
How long did it take to prepare for the marathon and what did this preparation involve?
It took me about 6 months to prepare because the furthest I had run was only about 10km before that! In my training I did three runs per week, as well as three gym sessions to keep my insulin sensitivity up and to prevent injury. I would build up my mileage by about 10% per week and took every fifth week as a de-load week.
Was there any product or food in particular that you found helped you run the marathon with type 1?
Maurten gels for sure! I played around with all types of gels to find one that absorbed quickly for when I was dropping low really fast and Maurten was the only brand that worked quickly enough for me. I don’t know the science, but I think it’s because most gels need water for the glucose to absorb, but Maurten doesn't.
I would always eat peanut butter or nutella and banana on toast before my long runs too- it was a tradition!
What kept you motivated to keep going throughout?
My partner Liam ran the marathon too so we kept each other motivated during training. I knew I was running to raise money for a really good cause, so whenever I felt tired I would just think about what I was doing it all for.
During the actual marathon itself, I felt so much energy from all the other runners there and all the people cheering us on along the streets. I thought about how incredible it was that I was actually running a marathon after believing my whole life that I would never be able to. It was the best feeling.
What was your biggest concern with running the marathon as a Type 1 Diabetic?
I was most worried about having a hypo that I wouldn’t be able to recover from and having to withdraw from the run. Ketones were also in the back of my mind, because of past experiences with big running events!
What was your blood sugar at starting the marathon?
My blood sugar at the start was around 18mmol! Not ideal!
What was your blood sugar finishing the marathon?
Did you see a change in blood sugar levels/insulin requirement after the marathon?
I had a big hypo during the night that I finished, and a couple more minor ones the next day. But other than that, I was all good.
What is your top tip that you would give to any other type 1 diabetics that dream of finishing a marathon?
You can absolutely do it! It takes a lot of planning and effort, but I reckon the feeling of finishing a marathon is even better when you have type one.