Runner Spotlight: Léonor Marchand
Editor’s Note: Léonor was a member of Beyond Type Run‘s 2018 TCS New York City Marathon Team sponsored by Dexcom and Insulet, makers of the tubeless Omnipod Insulin Management System. Learn more about the 2019 Beyond Type Run team here.
When did you first started running?
I started running when I was 14 or 15. During the weekends, when I wasn’t with people, I liked to go running just to have a moment for myself and I was enjoying it. But back then it was just once a week or once every two weeks. And two years ago I started running regularly, and I started to lose weight, so I was really happy. But then I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, so it turned out running wasn’t the thing that made me lose weight.
How did your diagnosis affect your running?
When I got out of the hospital I went for a 10km run, felt anxious, and I found it was a challenge to manage my blood sugar level. But it just made me think yeah I can still do that and I want to do that more and more, just to prove to myself and prove to others that I can do it. I started to enjoy it, and I decided to run a half marathon to raise money for type 1. It was exactly one year ago I ran my half marathon.
How is your training for the marathon different than for the half marathon last year?
Last year when I was training it was the first time that I was running more than twice a week. So it was new, but not as professional. Now, I’m following a training plan, and it’s so different. With marathons, if you haven’t trained, it’s impossible to do it. I’ve been running three times a week for nine weeks. And I have three more weeks to go. I feel like I know more about myself and how my blood sugar levels are going to react and how my body is going to react, so I feel more in control than last year.
What is the farthest you’ve ever run?
Last Sunday I ran 33 kilometers (20.5 miles).
How do you manage your diabetes?
When I was diagnosed I was using insulin pens, but a lot of people were telling me that they were very happy with Omnipod and that I should get it. At first I was afraid to have one more change and get used to a new device. But then I was running more and more, and it was annoying to have to eat a lot of sugar every time I was going to run. When I decided to run the marathon I felt that I was going to run for a long time, several times a week, and that I needed to have an insulin pump. The one that everybody was telling me to get was Omnipod because it was easy and you don’t have the tubes attached. I asked my doctor if I could get the Omnipod and he said yeah, of course. My doctor had actually recommended the Omnipod six months earlier, but I wasn’t ready to change. And now that I’ve made the switch I’ve realized it’s so much easier for running and for everyday life. With the pen I would stay a little bit high for hours and then adjust at the next meal. Now I can adjust my insulin dose throughout the day. With the Omnipod I’m a lot more in control; the best thing for me is when I go running I can have a temporary basal rate, it’s very helpful.
How do you monitor your blood sugar?
At the beginning I had the Accu-Chek, like the finger prick thing, but now I use a Freestyle Libre. I use it like all the time, and it’s been very helpful for running because I can take my blood sugar like every 20 minutes. What’s helpful is it tells me if my blood sugar is going up or down so I am able to see the trends and not just a specific moment.
What are you most excited about for the marathon?
It’s in New York—for me that’s very exciting. It’s one of the most important marathons in the world so I feel very lucky. I’m excited to be running for a charity; it wouldn’t have the same meaning if I wasn’t. And I’m excited to meet the rest of the team, and to be running with all the type 1s. That’s already something I do in France, I run with the type 1 running team. And it’s always so nice—you’re with all the type 1’s but you’re not there to actually talk about diabetes—you’re just doing something that you enjoy with people who understand this aspect of running. And of course, I’m excited to be able to say that I ran a marathon.
What are you most nervous about?
Pretty much everything. I’m really nervous I’m going to be stressed and do something that I shouldn’t do. When I’m training, even when I ran 33 km, I wasn’t stressed, I was calm and managing everything, and everything went well. Also, I’m used to going running right after I wake up. In New York I am going to be waking up at 5 a.m. and running at 10 a.m.. I’m stressed about how I’m going to manage my blood sugar level during those five hours.
Have you ever had any close calls while running?
At the beginning, maybe the two first weeks after I started training, I would go with less sugar than I needed. Once I went to a park, I was really far away from my home, and the park was almost empty. I was going low and I had eaten all my sweet snacks and my blood sugar wasn’t going up. I had nothing on me and there was no one around, but eventually it went back up. Now I just make sure that I always have more sugar than I need.
What are your plans for after the marathon?
I’m sure I’m going to find another project. I’m still going to be running regularly, and I’m considering running in the Paris marathon in April. It is a little close to the New York City marathon, so maybe the half marathon of Paris would be nice. I want to find another challenge, anyway.
What advice do you have for people living with Type 1 diabetes?
It’s important to know that even if the only thing that you did today was just survive, that’s great. It’s not so easy to have type 1 diabetes, and just going through the day without too many issues is already a big challenge. Connecting with other people with type 1 diabetes is also very helpful. This last year, I connected with a lot of different people and met a lot of type 1s and it has been very helpful for me—not because I want to talk about diabetes with them—but just to feel less alone, to feel like you belong to a community. It has been the most helpful thing this year.
To learn more about the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon Beyond Type Run team click here.