Running a marathon is a daunting task for any person. For Margot Forrest, 42, from Scotland, it took focus and commitment beyond what the average runner musters to train for and complete the 26.2-mile race.
She's lived with type 1 diabetes for 20 years. Marathon training means she also has to overcome the ups and downs of her blood sugar levels. Heart-pumping workouts could often lead to hypoglycemia (also known informally as "the hypo"), in which her blood sugar dropped dangerously low.
While some living with diabetes might cut back on exercise, Margot was determined to keep going. She found a new, first-of-its-kind technology to help her better monitor her glucose levels, so the only thing left to conquer was her mindset.
With diabetes, attitude is everything.
Balancing blood sugar while running
With more exercise classes, Margot upped her fitness game in 2016. When her hard work caused her blood sugar to plummet, she had to stabilize it by ingesting more sugar.
"I actually put on weight even though I felt really fit," she says.
Margot asked her doctor for a solution and was sent to a specialist nurse, who introduced her to the FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, developed by Abbott.
The FreeStyle Libre automatically reads glucose levels through a sensor, approximately the size of a U.S. quarter, that is worn on the back of the upper arm and eliminates the need for routine finger sticks1. The system also collects information on glucose patterns and trends, so she and her doctor have better insights on her glucose levels that help make more informed treatment decisions.
Wearing the FreeStyle Libre system has changed her workouts.
Before FreeStyle Libre, Margot had to check her glucose, requiring she prick her finger to get a blood sample. She had to do this multiple times, each day, a disruptive and inconvenient necessity.
With FreeStyle Libre, she no longer has to routinely finger stick to get a glucose reading and she is armed with the most current, up-to-date information so she can better manage her glucose levels, without interrupting her workout.
"I can just go and do a quick check and eat something with sugar if I need it," she says. "It's fantastic."
Marathoning with diabetes
Margot had entered a marathon once before, a few years after being diagnosed. She had felt ill during the race and had to walk 10 of the miles.
"I always thought in the back of my mind that I would love to do it again properly," she says.
With FreeStyle Libre, Margot could turn her mind back to marathon training. So she set a goal to run the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon.
The planning and discipline Margot learned from managing her diabetes for decades surely came in handy when training for the marathon.
"Margot is very determined," her husband Dave said.
She snuck in long runs around her work schedule, sometimes pushing herself too far. Dave and their three young boys would often drive to pick her up 10 miles from home, "drenched and soggy and wet and cold."
But she persevered. She reached milestones that surprised her.
Then, on race day in London, she faced a setback. After all her training, she had to stop at mile 23 because of dehydration.
Still, she was determined not to let her condition dictate her accomplishments.
Despite the challenges her diabetes created, Margot kept up her training regimen. Just a month later, she completed a half-marathon. Soon after, she finally reached her goal of completing a full marathon, a true physical and mental accomplishment.
Her FreeStyle Libre allowed her to more easily check her glucose levels frequently to keep it at a healthy level at every mile. This meant she could keep her mind off her blood sugar and on her mission.
"I'm very proud of her," Dave says. "She has put in a lot of work to get where she is."
1A finger stick test using a glucometer is required during times of rapidly changing glucose levels when interstitial fluid glucose levels may not accurately reflect blood glucose levels; or if hypoglycemia or impending hypoglycemia is reported by the system; or when symptoms do not match the system readings
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