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Linda Carrier, 61, has run more than 78 marathons and is the first woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons on seven continents in seven days) three times — and she’s done it all while living with type 1 diabetes. Image Provided by Linda Carrier
  • Ultrarunner Linda Carrier shares how she runs marathons while managing type 1 diabetes.
  • Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 14 years old, Carrier has lived with the condition for nearly 50 years.
  • Carrier has witnessed significant advancements in diabetes management during her journey with the condition.

61-year-old ultrarunner Linda Carrier is the first woman to complete the World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons on seven continents in seven days) three times.

Plus, she has run 78 marathons and 55 half-marathons and is currently in the process of running a marathon in all 50 states with just 12 to go.

To add to the wow factor, Carrier has accomplished it all while managing type 1 diabetes for nearly 50 years.

“I naturally like to challenge myself, and when someone says [you have] a life-shortening disease, I’m like, heck it’s not. I’m going to show them that I’ll be the longest-living type 1 diabetic,” Carrier told Healthline.

She was 14 years old when she learned she had the condition. Because her older sister had been diagnosed a few years before, Carrier was familiar with the symptoms. She also knew the outlook was daunting.

“There was no internet, and I remember going to the encyclopedia and books and documentation to find out how long the life expectancy would be for someone who was type 1 diabetic, and I couldn’t find anyone who would live past 20 years,” she said. “I actually told my husband when he asked me to marry him, ‘just so you know, it’s going to be short-term. I’ll probably be dead when I’m 34.’”

Doctors told her that while her life would most likely be short, if she ate properly, exercised, and took her insulin, she could live a little longer.

“Decades ago, when someone was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, they were told they wouldn’t live as long or be able to do the same activities as their peers without diabetes,” Dr. Andrew Welch, an endocrinologist at UC Health, told Healthline.

“With increased understanding of how to treat type 1 diabetes, and with the use of diabetes technologies such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, it is much easier to prevent complications from diabetes and participate in any activities available to those without diabetes.”

Pushing past the notion ‘you can’t’ while living with type 1 diabetes

Rather than letting her diagnosis hold her back, Carrier used it to push her forward.

The summer before she learned about her condition, she became the first girl on her school district’s all-boys baseball team.

“I loved baseball and I remember my grandfather teaching me how to throw and catch and I kept asking my parents to be on a baseball team because my younger brothers were and finally my mom said ‘fine,” Carrier said.

She also wanted to play football, but since that wasn’t an option, she became a football referee for youth leagues.

“I thought, I can’t play it, so I reffed it,” said Carrier.

She also ran on her school track team, and as she got older, running became her favorite pastime. At first, she wasn’t sure how far she could run with diabetes, but she embraced a bigger challenge with each race.

“As soon as I started running these organized races, it was like, what can I do next? I ran a half marathon, and that was easy, and then I ran a marathon, and I tried another one,” she said.

She kept going from there.

When she first started running marathons, she was on multiple daily insulin injections. “You’re just kind of relying on the insulin in the body and food at a point in time, so it was harder to stay in control,” said Carrier.

She went on her first pump while training for a marathon. She carried her meter with her during the races, checking her blood sugars every five minutes and drinking Gatorade if needed.

“[It] would take two or three minutes to get a reading, but it did a really good job compared to the long-acting, short-acting multiple injections,” she said.

Today, she uses Medtronic’s 780G System, which uses current and past sugar level trends to anticipate, adjust, and correct insulin delivery.

Since using the system, she has run a couple of marathons. While she always carries a mini bag of candy as backup, she said she hasn’t had to eat any yet.

“[All] I’ve done is make sure I don’t have any insulin on board…and as I go through the miles, I will usually take a little bit of Gatorade, and that’s been keeping me stable throughout the entire run,” she said. “It’s almost like going back to being a non-diabetic.”

Dr. Minisha Sood, endocrinologist at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital, said we are in an era when type 1 diabetes management is advancing.

“Newer technology is allowing the use of insulin and other hormone delivery systems to lower the risk of dangerous episodes of low blood sugar and to better control high blood sugar in patients with type 1 diabetes,” she told Healthline. “It’s an exciting time right now.”

Welch added that there are groundbreaking developments underway to help delay or prevent the development of type 1 diabetes by modulating the immune system using precise medications.

“Effective management of type 1 diabetes involves educating people about their condition and motivating them to make positive changes in their lives without the use of guilt or shame when challenges arise,” he said.

Helping others outrun diabetes

In 2022, Carrier published the memoir Outrunning Diabetes with the hopes of inspiring others.

“When I think back to when I was 14 to where I am today, it’s amazing,” she said.

As an ambassador for Medtronic, she talks with parents of newly diagnosed children. Often, she reassures them that their children can still live out their dreams.

“Sometimes parents are fearful, and they want to tell their daughter that she can no longer do ballet because she could die if her blood sugars drop,” said Carrier. “I assure them that they just have to prepare and carry candies in their car or bag.”

She also enjoys connecting with other like-minded people living with type 1 diabetes.

“I find it interesting meeting other people who…have the same drive to make sure that they can complete their goals even with diabetes–could be climbing mountains, hiking, running,” said Carrier.

She will finish her latest goal of running a marathon in all 50 states next October in Twin Cities, Minnesota. The race will be sponsored by Medtronic.

“Seems like the perfect way to finish,” Carrier said. “And to show that type 1 diabetes should not stop you from reaching any of your goals, whatever it might be.”