Training For a Marathon With Undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes


Editor’s Note: Cody is a member of the Beyond Type Run 2022 team—a team of nearly 50 people living with type 1 diabetes who ran the 2022 NYC Marathon on November 6. They’re on a mission to raise awareness and funds for type 1 diabetes, with fundraising open through the end of 2022. Congratulate Cody by making a gift on his fundraising page!

Having run numerous marathons and competitively in college, I had finally decided it was time to pursue the illustrious sub-3-hour marathon that so many marathoners chase.

This was 2020 and I suddenly had more available time when the world was thrown on its head in the COVID-19 pandemic. I found and hired a coach who was someone I knew from my old college team and went to work training more seriously than ever before. This was the year, I thought. This was going to be my time to accomplish something so many chase.

My coach had my training dialed in and my workouts were going very well. I was also conveniently losing weight and getting back down to my college racing weight despite eating the most food I had ever eaten in my life. But I was training hard and doing some serious running, so I assumed it was just a byproduct of the training.

I didn’t know I had the symptoms of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes

My race would be a virtual marathon with a window of late October to early November due to COVID-19. As I approached the end of my multi-month training plan, my workouts began to not go very well and I was steadily having some health problems such as intense fatigue, poor sleep due to leg cramps and frequent urination, and an unyielding thirst for ice-cold water. I also happened to be eating about 6,000 calories a day at this point which included a daily heaping of cookies and ice cream.

Despite all of this I decided November 1 would be the day for my sub-3-hour marathon and chalked up all of the issues as being side effects of hard training. I set out to run my marathon and things went well for about the first 16 miles. Then things went really wrong.

I ended up walking to finish well behind my sub-3-hour goal.  I was pretty disappointed with my performance and my coach was stunned based on the many successes I had during the training phase.

I blamed everything under the sun except for the nagging health issues I was completely ignoring. After all, I had never so much as even broken a bone. At 33 years old and being an active-duty Marine captain—surely, I was fine.

Getting diagnosed with T1D

Fast forward to January 3, 2021. I was in the emergency room at my local hospital being told I was a type 1 diabetic and would be admitted into the intensive care unit (ICU) due to being in severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a dangerous complication of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.

Being the lifelong fitness junky that I am, I knew I had to figure out how to keep working out. I ended up being hospitalized for 4 days. I quickly took to walking laps on my hospital floor and doing what little exercises I could in my room.

After being released from the hospital, I started working out in the gym and going for walks where I built up to running and testing what worked and what didn’t for blood sugar control. This was mainly possible through the use of my Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) which gave me the confidence to know I did not have to be afraid of my blood sugar control.

Getting back to running marathons

Cody stands in a stadium after a marathon, wearing his race medal and a blue Type One Run tshirt I decided it was time to get back on the marathon course and I raced Grandma’s Marathon on June 19, 2021. It was my slowest marathon ever, but it was the most rewarding one because now I knew I was truly back in control of my life.

Since that race, I have completed seven marathons including my fastest time ever and will be running on the Beyond Type Run 2022 team. I applied to be a member of this team because I was motivated to run with other people living with diabetes while we all worked toward achieving two worthwhile goals: fundraising for Beyond Type 1 and completing the New York City Marathon.

This was important to me because Beyond Type 1 played a vital role in my post-diagnosis story while learning how to live with diabetes.  I am also looking forward to meeting all of the other runners on the team who have inspired me to continue to thrive with diabetes.

WRITTEN BY Cody White, POSTED 10/27/22, UPDATED 11/07/22

Cody White lives in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and is a medically retired Marine Captain who will be running his 16th marathon with the Beyond Type Run team in New York City.