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Sandeep's story: community support inspired me to run marathon

Sandeep Chauhan

Sandeep Chauhan

Diagnosed age 35 in 2015.

One of the great things that Diabetes UK has done is put me in touch with a whole host of people who have learned to embrace their diabetes and work round it as opposed to fight it.

Sandeep, 39, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2015 after suffering with several urinary tract infections. Three years later he ran his first marathon for Diabetes UK and raised over £2,000.

    Journey with diabetes

    Sandeep's experience with diabetes

    • Diagnosed aged 35
    • Dad is pre-diabetic and grandmother has diabetes
    • Joined a running club in 2016 to keep himself fit


    Family history

    My dad’s pre-diabetic and he controls it with diet and my grandma is diabetic. It’s down to first and second generation Asians in the UK not being able to adapt to a western diet, and being predisposed to the condition.

    Life with diabetes

    Friends and family

    I’m getting married in a month and became a father about three months ago.

    I’m crazy busy at the moment. My partner, Michelle, has always been someone that’s always eaten healthily. We do cook together, and we cook more often than we get takeaways.

    Michelle runs as well and she’s doing the Manchester marathon in 2019.

    We’re quite competitive and we try to motivate each other as much as we can. On a Sunday morning she’ll be out at the crack of dawn and be home by 10am. She’ll have the rest of the day, while I’ll procrastinate and not go out until the evening.



    I work from home for the product marketing team of a software company.

    As I don’t get stuck in traffic coming home from a work, when I finish it’s a case of getting changed and going out for a run. Working from home can be hard, especially during the short winter days, but it allows me to make better choices with my diet. There isn’t the lure of sandwiches or other quick and easy food, and I quite often cook my lunch.

    Food and healthy eating

    Diet, nutrition and exercise

    I used to run during the winter just out of boredom as I play cricket and golf, which are summer sports. I used to run about four/five months of the year, play cricket put the weight back on and go through that cycle. When I moved up to Nottingham in mid 2016 my other half, Michelle, was up here and she joined a running club, so I joined as well. I began to run a bit more regularly and it motivated me.

    I’ve met a lot of people through the running club, so it’s great socially. Even when it is horrible out we still meet up and go for a run. I feel that running still has elements of being elitist and that running clubs only want really good runners. However, in my experience, the opposite is true and most running clubs are very welcoming. It’s a great way to get your motivation up, otherwise I’d wait until it’s warmer or lighter.

    My latest HbAc1 test showed I was borderline pre-diabetic so I was at the bottom of the diabetic range. I do take my metformin, but not regularly, just if I know I’m having a heavy food day, so if my friends are coming around for pizza for example.

    My diabetes didn’t have any impact on my running. I ran before and I’m still running now. I’m at zero risk of having a hypo as it’s impossible for my blood sugar to go low enough so I don’t have to monitor my blood sugar while I’m running. Having said that, if I’m not in control of it, I feel lethargic and have and find it difficult to motivate myself, especially if I’ve got a long run coming. I also need to be mindful of my diet a few days before a long run to make sure I’ve got enough energy, so I can’t go and binge on ice cream and pizza the night before. If I do, I’ll feel totally lethargic and it won’t be a good run.

    I try to eat food that’s high in protein, so lamb or chicken with green high-fibre vegetables. I have carbs but in moderation because carbs are an energy source. It’s okay to have a slice or two of toast before a run because it will give you energy, but it’s making sure it’s wholemeal or seeded toast not white toast which is much higher in sugar.

    For me there isn’t anything short term, it’s a long-term mindset. If you’ve got the choice of two foods and one is high in sugar, you choose the other one. More often than not you forget you used to eat things like white bread.


    Fueling up for runs

    I ran my first marathon this year for Diabetes UK – apart from the heat it was brilliant.

    I do use energy gels. One of the things that amazes me is that people are going out for 45min or one hour runs and they’ve got six of these gels and they’re taking them every 10 minutes. They are fundamentally sugar and being diabetic your sugar is already higher than others. When running you can use natural sources of energy and my advice to anyone who has type 2 diabetes is do a lot of research into these energy drinks. My GP said if you run for two hours it’s fine to have a Lucozade, but you don’t want to use it to rehydrate during a run too, because you’re effectively adding back all that sugar you’ve burned off during the run and then adding more at the end of it.

    For me it’s just about being aware of how your body reacts to different sources of fuels. When you’re doing a marathon, you’ve got four to five months of training so if you get it wrong you’ve got plenty of time to change it and get it right.

    Just make a note that what you did didn’t work for you. I don’t have a big breakfast if I’ve got a big run as I’ll feel horrible and bloated. It’s such an individual thing there’s nothing I can say that will work for everyone. Give it a try and if it doesn’t work have another go.


    What makes me feel better

    For me the biggest thing was I went on a Desmond course – I was the youngest by far, but the thing that struck me that the apathy that was there. We’d have these talks about good carbs/bad carbs and then we’d stop for lunch and they’d be people having big white bread sandwiches, lots of cheese and doughnuts for dessert.

    Being in touch with people who are going through the same thing, is great. If you’re having a bad day, you can talk to someone and they know where you’re coming from, they can listen to you if that’s what you want, or offer advice. But it’s the fact you know there are people who understand where you’re coming from. Maybe your diabetes is getting on top of you and you don’t have the motivation to run, that sort of thing is really useful. It was for me as well.

    Starting the marathon journey is really exciting but then after two or three months running 40 or 50 miles a week, it can get a bit tedious. Your motivation goes down and that’s when community groups can help.

    Diabetes UK and me

    Meeting peers living with diabetes

    One of the great things that Diabetes UK has done is put me in touch with a whole host of people, some who are type 1 and type 2 who have learned live with their diabetes and learned to embrace it and work round it as opposed to fight it.

    Predominantly I met people through the Facebook group for London Marathon 2018, but it was also coming down for the training day and meeting people you’ve interacted with on line face to face. The training day is aimed at people who are diabetic or know someone who is and everyone’s united by trying to fight it and it’s a great. For anyone who’s just been newly diagnosed, it’s really useful to be put in contact with people who have been down that road.

    I got a ballot place for the 2019 London Marathon and I’ll still raise money for Diabetes UK – last year I raised over £2000 but this year I’m just aiming for £500. Wearing the Diabetes UK vest is an amazing feeling.


    Sandeep’s perspective

    There is a stigma to diabetes because it’s all happening internally there’s no big change, and it’s only after 10 to 15 years when everything starts slowing down that you realise. People are unwilling to accept diabetes as dangerous as it is.

    I recommend doing as much reading as you can, speaking to people who are diabetic and controlling it either by medication or by exercise, but speak to people who have acknowledged they are diabetic and have learned to live with it. You’re better associating yourself with people like that rather than people who are in denial.

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