Among the toughest of endurance challenges- Arctic run with type 1 diabetes

Author: Roddy Riddle's story | Posted: 21 March 2014

By Roddy Riddle

Last April I ran a gruelling 154 mile footrace in the Sahara desert known as the Marathon des Sables (MdS). As a type 1 diabetic, my main aim of completing this was to raise money for JDRF and Diabetes UK. With the overwhelming generosity of friends, family and other generally nice people, I raised £26,000 split between the two charities.

I always said if I completed this then I would finally retire…well, it looks like that’s not happening!Roddy Riddle

I want to prove to myself and others that having type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to rule out the toughest of endurance challenges. So to push the boundaries, I have decided to participate in the Arctic Ice Ultra Marathon in February 2015. Spread over four days, this is a 155 mile run in temperatures of minus 30 degrees – a deficit of 82 degrees in comparison to the MdS.

There are a lot of things to think about when preparing myself for this challenge, such as how my insulin pump and blood glucose monitor will cope in these cold extremities. On the plus side, I live in Inverness, so coming out of a winter from up here will certainly make it easier when preparing for this adventure!

Most of my training from now until the race will consist of running from 40 to up to 100 miles a week. I’ll start practising with some weights too, to get used to being self-sufficient and carrying my own supplies. I’m lucky to have the Cairngorms mountain range on my doorstep – with plenty of snow and freezing cold temperatures in the winter, these will give me the perfect conditions to train and start preparing myself.

I am so grateful to the Napier University in Edinburgh, who have given me access to their climatic chamber. With a treadmill set up inside, this will simulate the conditions I will face during the Ice Ultra and will allow me to acclimatise to the opposite temperatures I had to cope with during the MdS. More importantly, I will be able to test out all of my equipment that I use to manage my diabetes, and to have all possible eventualities covered.

I couldn’t do any of this without the incredible support that I am receiving from so many. This includes my physio, David Brandie, and my dietitian, Irene Riach, both from the Scottish Institute of Sport. My diabetes specialist nurse at NHS Highland, Lorna Grant, who I am so grateful to, has joked that she will knit me a onesie to keep me warm at night. Lastly, I cannot thank enough my wife Lynn and my three lovely children – Alasdair, nine, Isla, eight, and our youngest, Findlay, who was born the week I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five years ago.

Without a doubt, there are big challenges ahead!