The FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system gives runners such as marathoner Amy McKinnon freedom from finger sticks*, mile after mile.

Racing with Diabetes: A Marathoner's Story

Oct 25 2018

When you have diabetes, glucose testing becomes a way of life. You prick your finger after you wake up, before breakfast. After breakfast. Before and after lunch. After your snack. After you exercise. Before bed. Day after day.

For many of the 30 million Americans1 who have diabetes, that endless saga is a painful hassle. But for those training to run a marathon, mixing exercise and blood-sugar testing with fingersticks isn't just a hassle — it's a serious slowdown.

Just ask 30-year-old Amy McKinnon*, a seven-time marathoner and nutritionist who has lived with type 1 diabetes since being diagnosed at age 12.

"I was fortunate in that my parents let me be in control of my diagnosis from day one," said McKinnon, an Australian expat who now lives in Los Angeles. "So I always did my own injections and my own glucose tests. I was able to do everything that a normal teenager was allowed to do, and I never saw my diagnosis as a barrier."

Sticking and Running

Because of that youthful independence, McKinnon had long been familiar with the painstaking reality and sore fingers that come with blood tests — but never more so than when she started running endurance races five years ago.

"I had a friend who signed up for one of the largest fun runs in Sydney, Australia, and asked me to join," McKinnon said. "I said sure — and it was only about 9 miles into the race that I came to the realization that I kind of enjoyed it!"

After warming up with a few half-marathons, McKinnon ran her first marathon, the New York City Marathon, in 2015. During the race, she had to test her glucose between four and six times from start to finish.

"It was challenging, like trying to juggle while running," McKinnon said. "I'd have to pull out the meter, put the test strip in, try not to drop the test strip, prick my finger and then try to get enough blood on the thing."

McKinnon didn't want to stop, so she would practice that juggling routine on long training runs.

"It wasn't easy," she said, "and a five-minute slowdown is a lot of wasted time if you're trying to qualify for a race or run a personal record."

A World of Difference

A friend of McKinnon's suggested that she look into Abbott's FreeStyle® Libre flash glucose monitoring system. With an adhesive sensor that sticks to your back of upper arm's surface, the FreeStyle Libre system enables noninvasive glucose checks using a simple scan, rather than a finger prick.

"In terms of running and training, it has made a world of difference," McKinnon said. "Being able to have a device in my pocket or on my waist belt means that I can just have my little scanner handy always. It just takes a second, and I don't need to slow down while checking my glucose."

In November, McKinnon will run the New York City Marathon again — and this time she'll have her FreeStyle Libre system in tow.

"I'll be able to check my sugar level without having to stop or slow down or take any other extra steps," she said. "And I'll immediately know my level within a second or two."

Life, Exercise and Glucose Testing

FreeStyle Libre system doesn't just free McKinnon from finger pricks while she's running and training. She's made the device a normal part of her day-to-day routine. She estimates that she used up to 20 fingersticks each day for routine glucose checks. Now, the FreeStyle Libre system has turned each painful prick into a painless scan.

"I wear it every day," she said. "I'll use it to check my sugar multiple times during the day — like before I eat meals — and I can just live my life without being interrupted by pricking my finger every hour or two. I can feel normal, and it gives me so much better control in my diabetes management."

That control has helped McKinnon commit to her marathon-running goals despite her diagnosis. After all, some people say nothing good happens without a little blood, sweat and tears — but if you could go the distance with a little less blood, isn't that a good thing?

* The views expressed by the author is not intended to be used for medical treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or qualified health provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary.


1. Center for Disease Control,


Indications and Important Safety Information
FreeStyle Libre and FreeStyle Libre 14 day Flash Glucose Monitoring systems are continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices indicated for replacing blood glucose testing and detecting trends and tracking patterns aiding in the detection of episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, facilitating both acute and long-term therapy adjustments in persons (age 18 and older) with diabetes. The systems are intended for single patient use and require a prescription.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment.

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS: Do not ignore symptoms that may be due to low or high blood glucose, hypoglycemic unawareness, or dehydration. Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate. The systems do not have alarms unless the sensor is scanned, and the systems contain small parts that may be dangerous if swallowed. The systems are not approved for pregnant women, persons on dialysis, or critically-ill population. Sensor placement is not approved for sites other than the back of the arm and standard precautions for transmission of blood borne pathogens should be taken. The built-in blood glucose meter is not for use on dehydrated, hypotensive, in shock, hyperglycemic-hyperosmolar state, with or without ketosis, neonates, critically-ill patients, or for diagnosis or screening of diabetes.

Review all product information before use or contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) (or visit for detailed indications for use and safety information. For full indications for use and safety information, see more here.



You are about to exit for another Abbott country or region specific website

Please be aware that the website you have requested is intended for the residents of a particular country or region, as noted on that site. As a result, the site may contain information on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other products or uses of those products that are not approved in other countries or regions.

The website you have requested also may not be optimized for your specific screen size.

Do you wish to continue and exit this website?


You are about to exit the Abbott family of websites for a 3rd party website

Links which take you out of Abbott worldwide websites are not under the control of Abbott, and Abbott is not responsible for the contents of any such site or any further links from such site. Abbott is providing these links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement of the linked site by Abbott.

The website that you have requested also may not be optimized for your screen size.

Do you wish to continue and exit this website?