True Life: I Got Sick During Marathon Training


The aftermath of my failed 18-mile run.

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting to get sick during marathon training, but it may partly be my own fault. Well, partly my own fault and partly the fault of the germ-y people I have to share the LIRR and subway with everyday.

On Friday at work I wasn’t really feeling like myself. I kept complaining about how stiff my neck felt to a co-worker and despite our office being pretty chilly, I was feeling  warm. Other than that, in the general sense of the word, I did not feel sick at all.

When I got home I laid down and took a nap until Mark arrived. By then I felt refreshed and we went out to get dinner at Bertucci’s. (They have the best chocolate chip cookie, ice cream topped dessert by the way!) Even though I was debating about whether or not I would do my long run (18 miles) on Saturday morning, we headed home and called it an early night.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, except for my neck still feeling stiff, I felt totally fine. I debated about running for a few minutes; the little angel on my right shoulder was saying, “Don’t risk it. Rest until you feel 100% and then do your long run.”

But the little devil on my left shoulder was saying, “You better get out there and run. It’s not gonna be good if you miss this long run.” Being the sensible and reasonable runner that I am, of course I decided that resting was out of the question. So I laced up and headed out the door and Mark stayed in to watch golf.

I decided to run a 4-mile loop around my neighborhood so that I could stop in my house for more water and energy chews whenever I needed. The first 9 miles of the run flew by and I felt great. I stopped in after two loops and grabbed some energy chews and re-filled my water bottle.

After heading back out, everything seemed to go downhill from there. My body literally felt like it was starting to disintegrate piece by piece. I was wearing a brace for my left knee but I was starting to feel pain in the area again and my muscles were feeling sore, but not the kind of sore I’m used to; the kind of sore that you have to learn how to push through. A much worse kind of sore. I was starting to feel completely fatigued. I was stopping  to stretch every mile or so and I was taking a lot walking breaks.


Eh, well see about that.

All of that should have told me that it was time to call it quits, but no… I was convinced that I needed to be more tough mentally and not give up. If I couldn’t finish these 18 miles, how would I ever finish the marathon? I was starting to feel really defeated and upset. I even remember thinking to myself that I was sure I didn’t want to run the marathon anymore.  I finished another loop and was at nearly 12 miles when I stopped in for more water (and spilled coconut water everywhere in the process) and told Mark I was going to try and finish one more loop.

I headed out the door and soon ran into a neighbor who passed by and said to me, “You’re still out here?! I saw you running much earlier.”  I slowed to a walk and explained that I was training for the NYC marathon. He said, “Oh wow, how long are you running today?”

“18 miles,” I said.

Oh my goodness, you’ve been out here for so long,” he replied.

Then I answered, and I kid you not, this is what I literally said to him, “I know. I just want it to be over.”

He said, “Well, good for you.” I thanked him (although I did not believe it was at all ‘good for me’) and we both went on our way.

That gave me a tiny boost of motivation to keep running, but  I made it about a quarter of the way around the loop before I just couldn’t run anymore and I walked about a mile and half home. A few times I contemplated whether or not I should just call Mark to come pick me up.

When I got back to my house I had reached about 13.9 miles. I collapsed on the floor and told Mark to never let me sign up for another marathon ever again. At that time I thought I had failed. I thought that I just wasn’t capable of running anything beyond about 14 miles. But now, after having been extremely sick for almost four days, I know that the reason I couldn’t finish the run was because I was probably already sick when I started and I asked my body to go way too far beyond its limits.

Saturday night was when I really started to feel sick. Fever, chills, aches… the whole nine yards. When I woke up on Sunday I had to cancel our brunch plans and I stayed in bed while Mark went to get bagels. From there, it only got worse. I went to the doctor on Monday morning and had my blood taken. I was tested for Lyme disease , diabetes and a some other metabolic issues. The doctor noted my physical exam as “unremarkable.”

My tests all came back negative, but the doctor said that my white blood cell and platelet counts were down, which probably means that I caught something viral. I’m still waiting to hear back about more tests on that front. But judging from how awful I’ve been feeling, I’m guessing I caught the flu.

Anyway, I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to recover today and I’m planning on getting back to work tomorrow. However, I will not be running at all for the rest of the week and I’m going to have to rearrange  my whole training plan to accommodate for this unexpected time off.

Of course, I’ve never trained for a marathon before, but having to take time off from training is nothing new to me. (I had to take two weeks off when I was training for the Long Island Half Marathon.) So, I’m really working on not turning into a huge worry wart even though I’ve got just one month left until the race.

I’ll update you all with what my plan of attack is within the next week or so. Until then, I will be resting, resting and resting!

Have you ever gotten sick while training for a race? What did you do to recover and get back in the game?

1 comment
  1. Thanks for sharing….I didn’t get sick while training. But I have since then and had to quit on a distance run. Causing me to feel like a failure afterwards.

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