So the more I complain about this cold and the more I research how to get rid of it while training for a marathon, the more I’ve come to realize how common it is to get sick right before (or after) a big race!
Mike first mentioned this phenomena to me when explaining how the weeks prior to an Ironman are the riskiest for a triathlete. It is very common for would-be Ironmen to come down with a cold. The more research I did on this topic, the more support I found for this theory and came to the conclusion that I worked myself sick!
Hal Higdon, an influential running coach, mentions on his website: “ or the week after the marathon. That’s because in building to a mileage peak, they often overdo it and temporarily suppress their immune systems. Marathoners thus are more vulnerable to any viruses they might encounter. To avoid colds, try to avoid people who have them. And get plenty of rest.”
Sounds about right.
As usual, I went to Google to find some additional answers. I found several running forums with posts from runners who caught colds the week or even days (yikes!) before the marathon. Another article on “12 Tips to a Terrific Taper” mentions that it’s fairly common for runners to get minor illnesses while tapering.
In the past I’ve assumed that I’ve stayed illness free due to my active lifestyle and healthy diet. That is very true to an extent, but according to runningforfitness.org, although moderate exercise increases resistance to disease and infections, heavy training and racing weakens the immune system. “There is considerable evidence that susceptibility to infection is increased by running marathons. For example, 13 per cent of the runners who completed the Los Angeles Marathon in 1987 became ill during the week after the race, compared to just 2 per cent of the control group of runners who didn’t participate in the event.” Apparently the phenomena of illness occurring more frequently during taper has not been thoroughly researched, but it seems to be clear that it seems to be the body’s response to the high stress of peak training to make itself ill.
Similar to what my running coach said, runningforfitness.org indicates that “it is safe to continue running if you feel like it, provided that your body temperature is normal and that all the symptoms are all from the neck upwards. You should not run if your temperature or resting heart rate are elevated, you have aching muscles or sore joints, diarrhoea, or if you have a chest infection. If your symptoms are a nothing more than a sore throat or a runny nose, you can go out for an easy run. If your head starts to pound or if you don’t feel well, turn round and go home.”
I skipped my 8 mile run today and I probably won’t push it by trying an easy run tonight. I know that my body is more than prepared to handle this marathon, and although my symptoms are neck-up, I’m going to take three days off and rest. I need it!