Running While Sick

A couple weeks ago I was standing on the Great Wall of China, and I swallowed.

OUCH!  Throat ='d pain.

My instinct was to look around me to catch sight of the Samurai who must have just climbed the wall and stabbed me in the neck. But then I remembered that Samurai come from Japan, not China.

It turns out, I wasn't stabbed in the throat. I was just officially sick.  I had been sick for a few days, actually.  My family had been preparing for our Great Wall Half Marathon trip for a year, and despite my typically good health, consistent training, and disturbing overuse of hand sanitizing wipes, the Bad Luck Germ Monster followed me to China and waited until the very moment I crossed the country's border to attack me with a virus.

The "Bad Luck Germ Monster" caught up with me on my flight to China.

I remember sitting on the airplane, about to land in Beijing, when I first felt the twinge of throat pain.

"C'monnn....allergy!" I crossed my fingers in hopes the pain was due to any other reason other than illness. But alas, the pilot's weather forecast over the loudspeaker might as well have said, "Looks like sun, smog, and a week of pain and laryngitis in Beijing for Jolie Hales."


I had to face the facts -- I was going to be sick for the most epic race of my life. Not to mention the rigorous touring schedule that surrounded it (which I swear, can be more exhausting).

But hey -- at least I got to go!  And I didn't die!  Win, win!

Is it Safe to Run While Sick?

I did some searching, and the general consensus on running websites is that normally, if your illness is mostly above the neck (throat, nose, head, etc.), then you're probably safe to run.  But if your illness is below the neck (chest, body aches, bathroom issues) or you have a fever, get in bed and stay there.

Here's some general advice I found about running while sick:

  • If you have flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches), don't run.
  • Running with a fever will likely increase the time it will take you to heal.
  • If you only have cold symptoms (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, etc.), it's probably okay to run, but monitor your condition constantly.
  • If you have other illness symptoms, check with your doctor before training.
  • Resting may help you feel better faster.
  • Very few people stay completely healthy during their marathon training, so remain optimistic and know you're not alone.
  • Research shows that staying fit can boost your immune system, but pushing yourself too hard can put you at greater risk of getting sick.

Getting back on your feet:

  • If you've been training for at least 6 weeks, it takes around 10 days to really start losing fitness, so a short cold shouldn't hurt your training much.
  • Run the day after you feel normal to avoid losing more fitness.
  • Don't try to make up missed mileage by running more after you feel better.
  • Depending on how much training time you missed, consider cutting your next few runs by a third or half, and build mileage back up slowly.
  • If you start feeling worse again on a run, stop and give your healing more time.
  • Pay close attention to your body -- don't overdo it as you get back in the game.
  • Taking more than a month off will affect your training noticeably, and two months off means possibly starting your training back at the beginning.

To read more about running and illness, check out the following helpful website articles:

As Gale Bernhardt says on, "Health first, performance second.  Get well soon!"

To Run or Not to Run

So for me in China?  To run.  

I'm all about resting and taking a break from training to heal from illness, but here I was faced with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run a race on the Great Wall of China. I decided that if I was strong enough to even walk on race day, I was going to run that friggin' race.

And I did.  While I normally avoid taking meds while running, on this day, I was grateful for modern medicine.

It helped that my family took the race at a sloth's pace.  Thanks family!

And for the record, I do not recommend running while sick.  

And I totally think Americans should adopt the Asian policy of wearing a face mask when you're sick so you don't get others sick.  Perhaps then, I wouldn't have caught this bug at work and subjected myself (and soonafter, my husband) to these weeks of blah.

Looking weird for a cause!

I knew I would probably feel much worse after the race.  I just kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn't be bed-ridden.  China was pretty awesome, but it probably would have seemed less awesome from a Chinese hospital.

A Chinese hospital we drove by.
After the race, I did get worse, but I thankfully didn't have to be hospitalized or anything like that, so I chalked that up to the good luck... fairy (trying to find the opposite of monster).  I completely lost my voice that night (I'm still getting it back), and I struggled to remain conscious for a week at work afterward, but my coworkers were very understanding any generally steered clear of my germ-infested office.

Frankly, I'm so grateful for the awesome experience, that I'll take the illness along with it if that's what it takes.

Past Sick Runs

So.... since my judgement is always top-notch, this wasn't the first time I had run while being sick.

Two years ago, I not only dumbly decided to run the Firecracker 10K in Anaheim while I had a fever, but I pushed myself to run faster than I should have, because I knew I was in the running for an age division award.

After running with a fever, this may have been the last time I smiled for a month.

Good news is, I got third place in my age division.  Bad news is, I went to bed right after the race, and pretty much had to stay there for weeks.

Then more recently, I ran the Star Wars 10K at Disneyland when I was trying to get over an illness, but instead of making me feel worse, I actually got one of my best 10K finishing times, and felt better after the race.  So I don't get it.

2015 Star Wars 10K while sick - Felt better than I expected.

Still, I believe it's much better to err on the side of caution whenever we feel sick.

Back on the Path

Today, I finally got back out on the trail.  Though I'm not feeling 100%, I couldn't wait another day to try to heal up.  And after consulting with Dr. Internet (which is never wrong), since my symptoms were all above the neck, it was probably okay to run.

Besides, after 3 weeks of not training, I was starting to feel my leg muscles turning to jello while I sat at my desk at work.

I ran 4.5 miles after work at an easy 8:59 pace, which was actually faster than I expected to run.  While running, I could feel the loss of athleticism more than the illness -- my chest was tighter, I wasn't as fast, and I got some random blister on my toe... not sure what that was about.  As for symptoms of the lingering illness, let's just say I had to spit a lot more often, I shouldn't have taken fiber tablets earlier in the day, and I coughed more when it was over.

Today's run -- first day back training since getting sick three weeks ago.

I guess we'll see how tired I am tomorrow!  Fingers crossed the relapse monster doesn't know where I live.


  1. I can't believe it's lasted so long for you. Crappy! I hope you're feeling better!

    I've learned if I get a chest cold then I'll sit it out or it'll get worse, but I usually run through the rest. :P

  2. Just imagine what it would have been like to spend a night in that Chinese hospital. Haha! I'm glad you're feeling better, and we know how far we can push ourselves while sick. Great post, Sweetie.


Copyright © 2015 Jolie Hales. Powered by Blogger.