Marathon running is growing in popularity, and many diabetic patients are participating in various marathon races all over the world each year. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence and extent of glycemic excursions (hypo- and hyperglycemic) during a marathon run in patients with well-controlled diabetes mellitus using a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS). Five subjects with type 1 and one patient with type 2 diabetes mellitus were monitored with the Medtronic MiniMed CGMS during the 2002 Vienna City Marathon (n = 3) or the "Fernwärme run" (n = 3) long distance runs of 42.19/15.8 km. All six patients finished their course. The CGSM system was well tolerated in all patients over an average duration of 34 +/- 4.0 hours and it did not limit the patients' activities. The mean running time for the Vienna city marathon was 257 +/- 8 min (247 to 274 min) and for the Fernwärme run 134 +/- 118 min (113 to 150 min). A total of 1470 blood glucose measurements (mean 245 readings per subject) were performed. During and after the marathons frequent hypo- and hyperglycemic episodes with and without clinical symptoms were measured. Our data confirm that the CGMS may help to identify asymptomatic hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia during and after a long distance run. The system may also be helpful to improve our understanding about the individual changes of glucose during and after a marathon and may protect hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic periods in future races.