Distance Running and Diabetes: Mile After Mile With Greg Weintraub

Editor’s note: The Boston Marathon is nearly upon us! In recognition, we revisit this 2017 interview with Type 1 runner Greg Weintraub, who will once again be competing in 2018.
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When Greg Weintraub runs, his mind is clear. All he thinks about is the next mile, and the next, and then the next.

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“I have a hard time disconnecting from things,” he says, “and running allows me to release that ongoing stress of thinking about diabetes.” Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 8 years old, Weintraub is now a 24 year old who, as of April 17, will be a four-time Boston Marathon runner. In total, he has raised about $200,000 for Joslin’s High Hopes Fund, which is a source of unrestricted support for the Joslin Diabetes Center.

The Boston Marathon is one of the most prestigious races in the world, with more than 30,000 runners and massive crowds of viewers. It’s a challenging course with unpredictable weather. Weintraub lives outside of Boston and has been training for months with a group that meets every Saturday morning at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. He trains alone during the week, and enjoys running with the group on long runs because, “it keeps me going and pushing at the end.”

His running mantra is “keep it simple.” He generally tries to keep his blood glucose above 200 before he runs because it keeps him at a “safe” level.

“It’s a timing thing for me. I test 30 minutes before I run and eat a gel or a Clif Shot Bloks (a type of energy chew). It’s not a perfect system, but I know that by the time I start running, the food and exercise will keep me level.”

Maintaining blood sugar control on race day

Weintraub tests about every five miles during training and on race day, his parents will take over that role. Working as a team, they will follow his progress on the “Find my iPhone” tracking app, and he will meet them at miles 6, 11, 16, and 20 to test his blood glucose and adjust with food as necessary.

“They are the brains behind my race and their support allows me to just focus on the running. It’s one less thing to worry about,” he says.

Weintraub credits his quick diagnosis at 8 years old to his parents, who both work in health care. He remembers spending the weekend on the couch, getting up every hour to go to the bathroom, and says his parents “quickly got suspicious.” His doctor sent them to Boston Children’s Hospital, and his life was forever changed. He calls this moment an “inflection point,” meaning it was a moment of significance, like an awakening.

Getting — and giving — inspiration

Today, Weintraub says having Type 1 hasn’t explicitly prevented him from doing things, but it has inspired him to do things he might not have otherwise. He remembers one night getting ready to go for a run, testing his blood glucose, and discovering he was too high to run. He was angry. But he used his anger to propel him into action and signed up for his first marathon. This was another “inflection point” for Weintraub, and he hasn’t looked back.

When I asked him about future goals, he said he wants to see how far he can truly go. He plans to keep running Boston and is even dreaming about running across the country.

“The idea of running many, many miles at once is very emotionally appealing to me.”

Want to learn more about exercising with diabetes? Read “Making Exercise Fun” and “Picking the Right Activity to Meet Your Fitness Goals.”

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