I’m in! On Thursday morning I secured my place in the Marathon des Sables [MdS] 2019. That means that in just over a year I will be attempting to run 150 plus miles in six days across the Sahara Desert. That’s right: me, my dodgy pancreas and all the medication it takes to keep me alive in the world’s biggest, hottest, most horrible desert.
Can the Marathon des Sables help me control diabetes?
Getting there fit enough, injury free and capable of dealing with the 50°C plus heat of the Sahara will only be part of the battle. The miles I’m putting in for June’s Marathon des Cote (see this week’s schedule above) mean I’m pretty confident about dealing with long periods on my feet, but the MdS is going to be about so much more than just running.
— Diabetic Dad Runs (@diabeticdadruns) 29 March 2018
It will be about making sure not one of the Sahara’s infinite grains of sand gets in my shoes – Google ‘MdS’ and ‘feet’ if you want to see the damage running for 150 miles in shoes filled with sand will inflict (be warned, you’ll need a strong stomach). It’ll be about slipping back two steps for every three I take on dunes the size of small mountains. It won’t be just about scorching temperatures; at night it will plummet to zero. Basically, it’s about putting myself through hell.
“I know it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I can’t really imagine what 50°C feels like…”
At least that’s what I’m told. I know it’s going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I can’t really imagine what 50°C feels like. I have no idea how it feels to be exhausted and roasting and faced with nothing but burning dunes before getting any kind of rest. But what I can imagine is having to carry all the food I will need to fuel me through the six days of the MdS next year (one of the rules of the MdS is that all runners must carry all their own food).
“If I don’t take better control of my diabetes, I’m never going to be able to complete the MdS”
And if I don’t take better control of my diabetes, I’m never going to be able to complete the MdS. That’s because at the current rate at which I burn calories to run long distances, I’d require a 150 mile long camel train to carry all the fuel I’ll need to get me to the finish line of the MdS. The reason for this is that I struggle to adjust my insulin dosage for periods of rest and activity.
“Too much insulin and my blood sugar level drops to dangerous levels. Not enough and it rises, damaging my blood vessels…”
‘Struggle’ is an understatement. Ninety per cent of the time, I fail. The amount of insulin I need to convert the food I eat into energy when I’m not running is vastly more than what I need when I’m running. Too much insulin and my blood sugar level drops to dangerous levels. Not enough and it rises, making me feel sluggish and irritable and damaging my blood vessels. Getting that balance right is as big a challenge as getting myself fit enough to run the MdS.
I’m going to need some help, I think.