So, Saturday 3rd Novermber 2018 was the day of my first 5k since diagnosis (a goal which I have been documenting my way towards achieving, starting here)… And…

I did it!

So if you’re reading this as somebody who is worried they ‘can’t’ do exercise, then please rest assured that if I can do it then anybody can!

Now, I imagine if a magazine ran a feature on ‘How this man runs 5k with Type 1 Diabetes’ it’d seem almost too good to be true… You can just imagine it can’t you? Marcus wakes up the second his alarm goes off at 5.30, checks his blood sugar which is usually a perfect 6.0 due to a very disciplined diet and well worked out basal insuin routine blah blah blah.

Now, I’m going to stick with the honest version, as I have done throughout this Beginner 5K series of posts, to show that doing some exercise as a type 1 diabetic is possible and that perfection really isn’t necessary (at least at these distances… which is why I suggest starting small!)

What actually happened is…

The Early Morning – Preparations Before Setting Off To The Race

I was awoken at half 6 by my grumbling 6 month old baby, and instead of checking my blood sugars, getting my running gear ready, having some sort of healthy smoothie etc etc, I was pinned to the sofa, letting the little man have a good snooze and giving his mum a well deserved mini lie-in:

Sleeping Baby Before 5K parkrun with type 1 diabetes
It won’t be long before he’s too big for this 🙁

Now, both the baby and his mum decided to have a lie in until 7.00 (the horror!) which meant we had a little rush to get him ready for being dropped off, but I still had time to check my blood sugars.. which were a nice 7.8 mmol/l. Now my wife Nikki had actually booked the day off to support me for this run today (which is just typical of her really, she has kept me sane throughout this diabetic journey, and been an absolute rock for me these 6 months). Now as we were running a little late Nikki had to get a taxi to the Hanley parkrun (the venue I decided on for the 5k) and I dropped our son off to spend the morning with his grandad.

Holding baby son before 5k run with type 1 diabetes
Is it just me, or is he absolutely huge for a 6 month old??

So the time was now 8.15 (45 minutes to the start of the parkrun), I tested my blood sugars again… 7.6 mmol/l. I decided to have half a banana, as this seems to have been a good move so far. Nikki text me saying how sorry she was that she wasn’t supporting me properly… I calmly reminded her of the fact she’d only gone and booked the day off to support me, and I can’t really imagine I’d have been doing this without her support! (And hey, its good to know somebody else has been not perfect during this 5k saga… not just myself).

So… after all that… my mother (a parkrun veteran – she decided to run this one too)  drove us both to Hanley park, where we met by Nikki.

Arrival At The parkrun

So we arrived about ten minutes before the start. A quick photo opportunity beforehand:

Married couple, man and wife, posing before 5k run with type 1 diabetes
I’m so lucky to have the support!

I had time for a quick blood sugar check 7.6… Perfect! No need to take anything on board, or worry about a correction. As a first timer I had to go to one side as a marshall talked us through the course, and then that was it.. into position for the 5k!

The parkrun Begins

Looking at the large number of people there were (it turned out there were 303!), I was expecting absolute chaos, but somehow it all just works. The course is well laid out, the volunteers run a very tight ship, and everybody seems to just take it for what it is, a nice 5k run on a Saturday morning… not the Olympics!

Now, as much as I tried to remind myself to not listen to my ego and go slow, I couldn’t help it… I went off too quickly with the masses. Now this wasn’t a complete disaster, as I managed to reign it in a little before it completely derailed the run.

The first 1/4 or so was fun and it felt great:

Running a 5K with type 1 diabetes
Looking far too confident at this stage!

Now while it is ‘only’ 5K, the problem with running a new route for the first time is you just don’t have the mental markers on the course to know how long is left, or the past experiences to know you can make it to the end. Now the course is quite hilly for a park, and given I’ve been training on completely flat ground and I’ve only ran 2.5 miles once in the training for this it did start to quite challenging.

I had to re-call my long-ago previous marathon training (back in the days where I could just eat food without injecting!) and a lesson I’d learnt from the book ‘The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer’ (non-affiliate link), which was to focus on repeating a mantra to myself ‘I am marathon’. (It sounds crazy, but honestly its amazing how well it works… but when you think how powerful negative self-talk is, then it stands to reason that positive self-talk can be just as powerful).

So… while the fun was slowly disappearing I managed to keep going:

Running a 5K with Type 1 Diabetes
Starting to suffer now!

Now thanks to the ‘first-timer talk’ I had at the start, I had a reasonable sense of when I was getting towards the last mile. I took a couple of Dextro tablets as a precaution to make sure my blood sugars weren’t dipping too far and suddenly it all started becoming fun again.

The Finish Line

Honestly, its hard to explain how I felt after crossing the line. I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared as I was when I was given the diagnosis, and then it took me several months to have the confidence to go out and do any exercise (especially after walking over the summer was causing my blood sugars to crash… Thanks hot weather for the increased sensitivity to insulin!). Luckily for me, my wife was there to support me, give me a drink and hold my things while I had a quick blood sugar test… 6.0!

I’m not sure what pleased me more, managing my first running event with type 1 diabetes, or finishing it with a blood sugar smack bang in the middle of the healthy range!

A few minutes later my mother finished, and after a quick couple of photos… that was that!

Man and wife at end of running 5k with type 1 diabetes
I need to improve my selfie skills… I missed off half my face!


Man and his mother after running a 5K with type 1 diabetes
A seasoned runner and her tired son!

The Results

Now as much as I tried to not let my time be a decider of being ‘successful’ or not, I was of course curious. At parkrun you have to take a barcode, and it gets scanned at the end. You find out your result a couple of hours later via email or text.

I received the below…

Hanley parkrun results for event #369. Your time was 00:30:49.

So, a time that doesn’t bruise the ego too much.

What Next?

Now the time I received looks to lend itself to aiming to get to something like a 25 minute 5k at some point. However, I have to be realistic and realise that genetics do come into this somewhat. At the end of the day the people I saw belting around the course at a great speed all had a quite skinny build, and that is just not me!

I’ll definitely choose a fitness goal, and keep blogging about it with the vision of showing other type 1s who are unsure about their ability to exercise that it is possible, even with my level of imperfectness! The goal will almost certainly be running based.. but for now I’m just going to enjoy the moment, and give myself some time to decide on the next move.

As for the next few blog posts while i’m deciding what next? I’m definitely going to do a tips post, sharing what worked well for me in running this 5K with type 1 diabetes, and what I could have done better. After that, well, I think a list and review of resources I’ve used would be helpful to others.

For more information on parkrun, check out their website.

Thank yous

I couldn’t end this post without a quick thank you to my wife, my mum and my dad for their support. If you have type 1 diabetes, having a strong family unit helps unbelievably, please do not shut them out. And of course my amazing son for giving me the inspiration to try and stay healthy.

Disclaimer – It is essential that you do not take on board any advice given on this website without first seeking the advice of a medical professional. Any descriptions of different ways in which I manage my type 1 diabetes on this website, including in the comments, are given in good faith, and are shared merely as suggestions which should be ran past a doctor or diabetes specialist nurse. 

Published by Marcus Pezzaioli

I started in September 2018 to document my attempts to get fit after a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes in April the same year. I believe sharing my story can help anyone who is afraid to exercise with type 1 diabetes, and show that it is not as complicated as it may appear from other sources of information out there. If I can do it, with no CGM and on MDI, starting out as somebody who does not fit the athletic profile whatseover; then anybody can.

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