Alumnus Simone Carniglia in the Guinness book of records

He ran the six major marathons in just over 16 hours (in total). He is the first diabetic in the world to do so

Around 132,000 people in the world have finished the world's six most important marathons: only a few dozen of them are diabetics, and of these few dozen only two have type 1 diabetes, the most serious because it's autoimmune and there's currently no cure; “but it's only a little while away,” said the man we're talking about with confidence. The man in question is Simone Carniglia, a graduate of Politecnico di Milano, a mechanical engineer who graduated in 2011 and now works for Saipem, a company operating in the energy, oil and renewable energy sectors.

Simone's story is an inspiring one: "Many mothers thanked me after meeting me, because I showed them that their diabetic children could also do sports” Do sport, and not just that: Do endurance sports, which many people think is out of the question for diabetics: "The message I want to give is that we diabetics can do endurance sports, but we must pay attention to a number of parameters during exercise: for example, our diet:, which must be more substantial than that of others, with more carbohydrates, and our hydration. We have to drink a lot.”

Carniglia got into marathons by chance: “I have always played team sports, mainly basketball and handball, but in 2017, at the age of 30, I had too many ankle sprains and had to stop. I gained weight, which is one of the side effects of our illness, I weighed over 125 kilos. Then some friends suggested I do a 10 km race, the Milano DJ ten. I had never raced before, but I took part and finished it.

From there he discovered a talent: "I started running marathons and discovered I was fast.

In fact, Simone is more than fast: he has set some important records, so much so that he ended up in the Guinness Book of Records for being the first type 1 diabetic to have finished the six longest marathons in the shortest possible time: just over 16 hours (the previous record was 21 hours).

The six marathons are: London, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Berlin and New York: "And unlike what the Italians think, the most prestigious is Boston, not NY".

Again: “I have a personal best of 2 hours 38 minutes and 21 seconds (which means running one km well under 4 minutes!) but my goal is to get below two hours 35 at least once. I think I can do it, I came close twice.

But why does Simone run? Certainly because he likes it but also to help research: “Yes. We are in the final stretch to find a cure for type 1 diabetes. Insulin is a treatment but not a cure. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, but scientists have succeeded in finding methods to make the cells destroyed by our immune system invisible to the immune system itself and thus allow new cells obtained from stem cells to be transplanted safely, enabling them to produce insulin like a healthy pancreas would. I know that the human trial has been going on for 2-3 years and those who have had the treatment have stopped using insulin.

In short, we are very close: "It could be 10 years or just two or three. What I do know is that I will see the cure and be able to use it, so that children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes can rest assured that they will be cured. I like to support research and that's why you can donate here to help JDRF, the leading global organisation in the search for a cure for type 1 diabetes, which funds the best research in the world, including Italy”.

Again on himself: "Running a marathon is already challenging for the average amateur runner, but for a diabetic it is even more so. During a marathon, a diabetic has additional factors to take into account: he or she must continuously monitor blood sugar levels to make sure he or she does not faint or, on the contrary, go into ketoacidosis or even worse, a coma. Diabetics are more prone to dehydration and cramping during physical activity, especially if glucose levels are not perfect. This happens because with T1D the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone essential for turning food into energy”.

The daily life of a person with T1D involves many challenges such as the many daily insulin injections that have to be balanced with diet and physical activity.

“I qualify for competitions with my results, I am not accepted for charity or because I am ill. I finished as the third Italian overall in Boston, Chicago and Tokyo, fourth overall in Reikiavik and sixth overall in Helsinki, other international marathons that are not part of the majors”.

Find this and many other articles in MAP, the magazine of Politecnico di Milano Alumni, coming out very soon! Want to support the project and receive the Magazine at home in hard copy? Donate here!