I Can….Run – Andy Broomhead


I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in October 2001 and a few weeks later I received my rejection letter for the 2002 London Marathon.

I wasn’t too bothered at the time. I was very much set that diabetes meant I couldn’t run that far or for that long. I was having trouble understanding how to play five-a-side football at university, never mind realistically contemplating running 26 miles.

But things changed. I learned more about diabetes and I got better at controlling my blood sugar with exercise. Even after almost 13 years of living with Type 1, this is still something I find difficult to keep a handle on. The type of exercise, the intensity and duration all have a different effect on me as does things like the temperature when I’m out running. Being able to understand and adapt to those things takes a lot of time and patience which is a frustrating thing in itself.

Training for a marathon is probably about as awful as it sounds. A good four months of preparation, being up at 6am on Sunday mornings to practice eating breakfast with the proper insulin doses, just to get the right starting BG level before doing a 14 mile run. Then there’s carrying your BG meter and test strips with you (in all kinds of weather!) to be able to monitor what your body is doing as your feet hit the tarmac mile after mile. I can say with some certainty that having a Continuous Glucose Monitor and a pump would have helped me a lot back then! I figured if Sir Steve Redgrave can win 5 Olympic Gold medals and have diabetes, then there’s no excuse for me not trying!

After a lot of hard work, I’m proud to say that I ran the 2012 London Marathon in five and a half hours, about 30 minutes slower than I’d planned. It definitely wasn’t easy and it definitely was painful, but I managed it all the same. I’m also proud to say that after 26.2 miles, I crossed the line with a BG of 6.2 which was possibly the most incredible thing of all!

The thing is that, as we all know, then only thing we all have in common as diabetics is that it affects us all differently so it doesn’t necessarily follow that what works for me would work for anyone else. If you want to do something like this then you’ll have to go through that period of learning and refining what you do to prepare before a big race. If you want inspiration, you should look at what people like @Diathlete and @RoddyRiddle have done to say that diabetes shouldn’t stop you doing anything.

What you might not know is that running becomes quite addictive and so in October this year, I’ll be doing the Yorkshire Marathon to raise funds for Diabetes UK. You can visit my fundraising page to find out why this is important to me.

Remember that no matter how difficult it might seem right now, diabetes shouldn’t stop you living how you want to. I can run. And you can too.

Andy is the chairman of the Sheffield Diabetes UK group and runs a peer support service for people with diabetes in the city

You might also like