If you have been running for any length of time, you have likely encountered the great conundrum faced by all runners at some point; to run or not to run with a cold. Personally, I would not let anything short of a broken limb or hospital stay keep me from running a race I have trained for. If you are reading this article, chances are you feel the same way. Fortunately, I have made several of the rookie mistakes that sick runners make their first few times out on the course with a cold. Now, you can reap the benefits of my flounders and avoid them yourself.
Running while sick with a cold definitely comes with its list of dos and don’ts. First of all, make sure you are sticking within your limits. If you have been rocking a fever over 100 degrees you should avoid the race. If you cannot do that, at least give up on the notion that you will hit a PR. Trying to do so can result in serious illness. Running tasks the cardiovascular system, and you don’t want to overtax it by forcing your body into shock. Second, make sure that you are not suffering from something more serious than a common cold virus. If you have any symptoms of pneumonia, bronchitis or sinus infection, it is best to avoid the race. The last thing you want to do is cause respiratory failure because you cannot handle sitting out for one race. Forcing one race might cost you an entire season.
Keep in mind that running will boost your immune system, but you cannot sweat out a fever. While we would all like to convince ourselves that running with a cold is a great idea and likely the cure scientists have been seeking since two men sneezed in a cave, it must be done with caution. It is absolutely true that regular exercise does wonders for your health and your ability to stave off most viruses and infections; however, there are studies to show that distance training may actually put you at risk for colds and flu viruses. The reason is that your body undergoes a tremendous amount of stress during peak training seasons. If you are not allowing yourself the opportunity to heal between races and training runs, you are likely wearing your body out.
Runners are incredibly in tune with their bodies. The best advice I can offer you is to listen to yours. Also, I can advise you to not take cold medicines before a race. Benadryl will make you exhausted and wear you out faster than it will take a mid-packer to make it to the starting line. Sudafed will dehydrate you and speed up your heart rate; both very dangerous side effects while running 13.1 miles. Other meds offer a combination of antihistamines that will have the same scary effects. If you are going to run with a cold, take your race in stride. Plan to have a slower finishing time and hydrate more than you normally would. If you feel dizzy, feverish or tight in the chest, stop and visit the medic tent. Be kind to your body and it will be kind to you.
This article was written for RunnersGoal.com by Kari H., a guest author.