Type 1 Diabetic Completes 350-Mile Arctic Race

| April 12, 2017

Sometimes we need a bit of inspiration to keep us going through the daily grind. And the story of a man with type 1 diabetes, who not only completed the world’s toughest super-marathon last month but also managed to finish second, should inspire us all.

Roddy Riddle was fit and healthy, an ex-international road cyclist. But at the age of 40, his world fell apart. In the space of six weeks, he lost three stone in weight, needed to pee constantly and couldn’t understand why he felt so tired. He was shocked to be told he had type 1 diabetes, a disease about which he knew almost nothing. Even worse was hearing that he would no longer be able to lead an active lifestyle, given the perceived risks of exercise with his condition.

Most people would have followed their doctor’s advice and resigned themselves to living with the limitations of a chronic illness. But Roddy was having none of it. He made it his mission to learn as much as he could about type 1 diabetes. He bought a treadmill and began training in the safety of his garage, where he could monitor his glucose levels constantly, using an insulin pump to fine-tune his insulin dose.

Roddy discovered that having type 1 diabetes was not, as he had been told, incompatible with strenuous physical activity. And he wanted to let the world know. To raise awareness about type 1 diabetes and challenge the misconceptions about exercise, he decided to enter extreme athletic events. In 2013, he completed the Marathon de Sables, a six-day race of 155 miles under the blazing Saharan sun.

Mission accomplished? Not a bit of it. In 2016, Roddy was running in the 6633 Arctic Ultra, considered to be “the toughest, coldest and hardest footrace on Earth” – 350 gruelling miles through the frozen wastes of Alaska and Canada. But this time things didn’t go well. Halfway through, Roddy had to pull out, exhausted and mentally drained.

Not finishing wasn’t an option

This year he was back again, feeling he had “unfinished business to take care of” and having learned some important lessons from his first attempt – like eating and sleeping when he needed to! Roddy said “I wasn’t going back a third time. I was not coming home until I finished. Not finishing wasn’t an option”.

After seven days of battling through brutally cold conditions and pulling a 30kg sled non-stop for the final 120 miles, Roddy was amazed to become the first Scot to complete the course and to have finished in second place. But he didn’t do it just for the personal achievement – he did it to show others that they can rule their diabetes and not let it rule them.

Roddy says: “I just hope what I do inspires as many people as possible to see that they can take control of their diabetes and perform at their best – whatever their goal. If doing this proves to youngsters that it doesn’t stop them from achieving goals in their life, then it’s a job well done.”

Roddy’s example is a reminder that, with the right mental attitude and taking steps to improve your health, you can do whatever you want to, whether you have diabetes or not. For more information on diabetes and sport, see here.

Roddy relied on his insulin pump to keep his blood sugar stable during the race. And a new study from the University of Sheffield compares the effectiveness of such pumps over multiple daily injections of insulin, as I report in my next blog post.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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