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The Bad Run as an Early Warning Sign for Illness

Posted on June 09 2011

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It’s been a busy few days here on the blog. My post from last Friday – ASICS versus Zero Drop, Maximalist versus Minimalist – sparked quite a bit of fruitful discussion, and I highly recommend you take a look at the post and the ensuing discussion in the comments (if you have a few hours to spare!). I have a lot of posts brewing in my head to further this discussion and better explain my position, but wanted to share a little story first.

My running has been going very well lately. From a pacing standpoint, I’ve been running a lot faster on my training runs than I have for quite some time, and in general have been feeling great. I set out on Sunday to run a 10 miler – beautiful day, and fully expected the experience to be a good one. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that something just wasn’t right. There was no pain, no aches, nothing that really stood out at all. It’s just that the amount of effort that I was putting out to maintain what was a more than reasonable pace for me was off the charts. I even had to stop mid-run to allow my body to recuperate a bit.

I got home after the run and was pretty disappointed. I hadn’t put up double-digit mileage in awhile, and I was worried that I had lost some of my endurance, despite my strong times at shorter distances. For a runner who is highly self-competitive, these things can wreak havoc on the psyche.

Fast forward about 36 hours. I woke up on Tuesday morning knowing that all was not well with my body. My throat hurt, and I could tell that a fever was building. By mid-day I was flat on the couch, and for the next 22 hours I barely moved, fighting off a throbbing headache, a 104 degree temperature, disorientation, and out-and-out delirium. As I suspected, it looks like I have another case of strep. Joy.

What’s the point of me writing this? Simply the fact that sometimes when a run goes bad, there are reasons besides poor training or loss of fitness that are the explanation. I’ve actually come to realize that how I feel on a run can be a great indicator of my well-being, and on more than one occasion a bad run has been followed a few days later by an illness. I’m also glad that I took the cue from my body and didn’t try to push through another run on Monday. It seems like a common refrain these days, but it’s worth repeating – the human body is wise, and sometimes it’s equally wise for we runners stand up (or crash on the couch) and listen to it!

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