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22 Jan 2022

Limerick man Jack flags ‘livesaver’ device after completing marathon

Limerick man Jack flags ‘livesaver’ device after completing marathon

Jack McGrath enjoys a well-deserved pint after tackling the Mullingar Marathon

RUNNING a marathon is a huge undertaking – but if you have diabetes then its doubly difficult.

However, that’s exactly what Ennis Road man Jack McGrath did, as he fought to regulate his blood sugar levels while completing the 26-mile course.

Bank worker Jack, 29, posted a time of four-and-a-half hours at the Mullingar Marathon, one of the first events of its kind since the Covid-19 lockdown.

In order to complete it, he had to take on board around 600 grams of carbohydrates to stop his blood sugar levels going down and his suffering from a ‘hypo shock’ which in extreme circumstances can cause unconsciousness.

“I had a hydration pack with two litres of milk in it. I had gels with 25g of carbs in them. I had a bowl of porridge and two flapjacks beforehand. The adrenalin can force your blood sugar down. So I was trying not to get too excited in the buildup. I ended up drinking five litres of Lucozade Sport through the run,” Jack explained.

As well as all this, a knee problem saw him struggle in the final miles to the finish line, sheer will power seeing him last the course.​

He was helped in no small part by the fact he has a continuous glucose monitor, or a CGM in his arm. This device links with his smartphone to provide an accurate real-time glucose reading and gives alarms to warn of high and low blood levels.

For Jack it’s been a “lifesaver” – but it’s not provided as standard to all diabetes patients in Ireland over 21. For those who cannot avail of it, it comes with a price tag of around €3,500-a-year.

He initially paid this, but appealed to the HSE, which then agreed to fund it, after staff at the diabetes clinic saw the positive impact it had on him.

“It’s a balancing act knowing when to take on sugars. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the CGM in my arm. It really has changed my life for the better. I cannot understand why they don’t five it out to people on a pro-rata basis,” Jack, who has had diabetes since age 16, said.

“I’ve learnt more about managing my diabetes in the last year then I have done in the previous 12,” he added, “It’s a 24/7 illness so having this managing it is important. If you’re finger pricking, you’re only getting that moment in time.”

The former Ardscoil Rís student has been in training for the Mullingar event for most of the Covid-19 lockdown and admitted it is something he wanted to tick off his bucket list.

“I’ve always wanted to do this since I was young. I think just 1% of the population run a marathon so I wanted to get in that club! It was the mental and physical test too. But I just couldn’t have done it without the CGM in my arm because the training is so intense and the long runs are so tough for people with diabetes,” he added.​

He played rugby, soccer and Gaelic football as a youngster, but gave them up when he was diagnosed with diabetes as a teenager.

It was after an episode of food poisoning at 16 that Jack lost weight raising alarm in his mother who took him to doctor, where he was diagnosed with type one diabetes.

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