Zoe Heineman finished her fifth TCS New York City Marathon this past Sunday on November 3, 2019. The New York City Marathon course is tough even without a chronic condition like type 1 diabetes. This year more than 50,000 runners from all over the world took to the streets of New York City. Not everyone finishes! Even for elite runners, it is the most difficult marathon with hilly stretches over 26.2 miles. We got a chance to talk to Zoe about her success, endurance and courage.
Tell us about your first marathon?
In 2013, I was invited to accept a charity bib for the NYC Marathon by a non-profit I support. Entrance to the race included a training program. Although I had not run any distance longer than a 5k, the invitation appealed to me. I wanted to get in better shape and needed a challenge. The New York Marathon was a sort of a dream I had to do one day. It was an opportunity to train safely as part of a group of women with a coach in NYC’s Central Park, three mornings a week. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t try to prove anything out of pride, and that if at any point I became injured or stopped enjoying it, I would stop.
About a month before the day of the marathon I started to worry about what might happen if I had severe hypoglycemia out on the course. I contacted New York Road Runners (NYRR), who organized the event to request a running companion, such as a diabetes nurse or my nephew. NYRR told me I couldn’t pick just anyone I wanted, but they directed me to Achilles, who provides guides to athletes with disabilities. Achilles guides run with athletes in mainstream races, such as marathons and triathlons.
How hard is running with type 1 diabetes, honestly?
Running with type 1 diabetes is much harder than running before I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 24. If my glucose is high, my energy level is lower, and I get tired much more easily. Most of the time running drives my glucose lower, and therefore, I have to be prepared to stop and eat glucose until it goes back up to a safe level. Sometimes, unpredictably, it has the reverse effect. If my glucose spikes while running I usually keep going and take a little insulin if necessary.
I carry a bunch of stuff in a fanny pack which is a bit of a hassle, but it’s worth it to be able to run with peace of mind knowing that I am prepared for anything.