Running and illness: Five things NOT to do

Six weeks to go until the Brighton Marathon and the lurgy has struck. I’d got through the winter pretty much without a sniffle, and then, WHAM! I’m oozing ectoplasm and wheezing like an asthmatic sex pest. I suppose I had it coming, even with all the veggies and ‘immune boosting’ supplements. No one really gets through the cold & flu season without getting hit, do they?

Certainly not runners. Apparently, the more you exercise, the more susceptible you can become to bugs. See, all that running creates inflammation in your joints and other bits and pieces. In much the same way your body creates its own version of pot to help keep a smile on your face on the longer runs, all this swelling prompts your body to release steroid hormones to calm the inflammation. Clever stuff, except the steroids suppress the immune system, so the snot fest begins…


This week’s training schedule (above) makes it clear how I reckon I should be adjusting my training schedule to make sure this bug doesn’t completely trip me up before the marathon in April. And I’ve learned this the hard way. I probably haven’t been that sensible since the sniffles started last week. So here are five things NOT to do if you’re training for a big run and get struck down by the lurgy…

1: Run, obviously

… except that’s exactly what I did when I woke up last Thursday feeling like someone had taken a sander to the inside of my throat while I was sleeping. In fact, I went for a vigorous five miles around a foreign city at 5.45, before a 12-hour day of work. What an idiot. By the end of the day I wanted to die. I haven’t run since then.

2: Blow it out of all proportion

There aren’t any medals at stake here. Not being able to run for a few days is no excuse for a hissy fit, a la Elton. Nevertheless, not being able to run was driving me nuts (I’m used to running four or five times a week), until I got some perspective. As I said a couple of weeks ago, this isn’t a sprint; a few days’ rest will do me good.

3: Try and make up for lost time

The temptation will be to try and make up for lost time once I’m running again, but I’m not going to be doing that. I started my training schedule for April’s marathon, the first of many in preparation for the Marathon des Sables in 2018, three months early to allow for this very eventuality and help me to recover from any injuries or illnesses in good time. I’ll have to remember that when I lace my shoes back up.

4: Hit the cocktails HARD

If naturally occurring steroid hormones hinder your immune mechanism, booze is a big spanner that’ll grind it to a halt. I’m not advocating abstinence here – a medicinal hot toddy or two is the only perk of being hit by a cold – just don’t let the knowledge you don’t have to haul yourself out of bed for a run in the morning be an excuse to completely smash it. That’s what I did on Saturday night when some mates came round. Let me tell you: Margaritas and Whiskey Sours are no cure for the lurgy.

5: Expect any sympathy

I suppose after all those cocktails, I’d have been a fool to expect any sympathy. Yet, still, part of me thought my darling wife might be up for tenderly mopping my brow while spooning hot homemade chicken soup into my quivering mouth, as the sprogs gingerly tip-toed around the house so as not to disturb me. I must have been mental. Family life goes on, ill or not: meals need cooking; bedtime stories need reading; noses (not just my own) need wiping; etc, etc.

  One thought on “Running and illness: Five things NOT to do

  1. February 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Here’s some good news! And you know what? Good news spikes endorphin levels which help boost immunity! Ok, I’m not sure if that’s actually tre, but why not?

    Ok, the good news. Runners with a solid base of training, like you, can take a full week off running and not lose fitness. Think of it as 7 glorious paid sick days from the you who worked hard to get here to the you who needs and deserves the rest.

    Get well 😃


    • February 29, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      That IS good news! I like your way of thinking! Thanks, from my sick bed, DDR


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