I was not sure what to write about today, as I wanted to feature something that was fresh in my mind, and would hopefully flow out onto the keyboard. I am filled with emotion thinking about my 1:13 half marathon in Philadelphia a few years ago, and although it was not as fast as I had hoped for a few weeks ago, a 1:13 is definitely going to help me with my future racing endeavors.
When I think about that race, there are a few things that come to mind that make me especially happy with my performance:
- I stayed strong and kept pushing hard from much earlier in the race than I would usually be comfortable with
- I “redeemed myself” for the Philadelphia marathon and finally enjoyed a race on those roads I spent hundreds of hours training on
- A few days prior to the race, I almost emailed the elite coordinators to tell them I wasn’t going to race
That third point seems like a good topic of discussion, as it is scary for runners. We read ALL the articles on it (Runners Connect has two great ones- are you putting your body in danger running while sick? and running with a cold? Should you do it?), but in reality, it doesn’t make the decision any easier.
I went through that struggle last week, and even asking around my other elite friends and coaches of elites, there was no cookie cutter answer.
After the race, many of the other elites admitted that they had also been sick, but had not told anyone or talked about it, and for good reason too.
If you talk about it, you are reaffirming those negative thoughts into your mind, giving yourself a way out in the race, so when those doubts start coming in, that negativity from voicing your sickness can fester on those negative thoughts, and pretty soon, your race is over- mentally, if not physically.
It got me thinking that this could be a place for us to discuss this, and see if we can get somewhat of a real perspective on whether we should race or not if we are sick.
You know I am all about the feeling, trusting your gut, and unfortunately, this is another one of those situations.
As I mentioned earlier, I talked to a few other elites and their coaches about what I should do, and I received mixed results. Obviously they could not see how bad I was at, but at the point I talked to them, I was probably at the worst point.
The best advice I received was from my good friend Mark Coogan, head coach at New Balance Boston. Mark told to trust my heart.
At first I was kind of frustrated with that answer.
Surely he must be able to give me a yes or a no?
He is an Olympian and coaches some of the best distance runners in America? How can you not have an answer for me?(Sorry Mark :p)
But then I thought about it.
He is right. So right. There is no rulebook about whether to race when you are sick or not.
You know in your heart if you are ready. If you have any doubts that the sickness is going to make you have a bad race, don’t do it. You are only going to destroy your confidence when you see the finishing time (or have to drop out). If that is the case, you have already started those negative vibes, which are magnified in a race when it is just you and your thoughts.
That being said, if you want to give it a try, do it, but drop out if you feel bad. It is not worth putting yourself further back for a bad performance, especially if you have another race coming up.
However, if you do decide to do it anyway, be prepared that you are going to feel worse about yourself afterwards than you would have if you didn’t race. Dropping out gives a real reality check, and you will probably regret dropping out, even if you know it was the right thing to do.
I know that is not what we want to hear, and that was not what I wanted to hear last week, but it really was the best advice.
On Friday morning when I woke up, I was at about 90% of my normal. The tapering I had done felt essentially useless, as I had lost that bounce in my step, that high your body gets off the extra recovery, but by tapering, my body could use that extra energy to get me back to healthy, which was most important. Had I not tapered for this race, I am not sure I would have been able to bounce back in time.
On that Friday morning, I decided I was going to race. I sat down and thought hard about it. In my heart I was excited for the race. I had a good feeling about the race, which meant I knew I was good enough to go.
Take that back a day, on Thursday, I had a bad feeling about the race. Had the race been Friday, I am not sure I would have done it.
I wish I could give you (or a future me reading) the answer.
I wish I could tell you whether you should race or not if you are sick, but at the end of the day, you are the only one who knows if you should. You and your individual circumstances.
If this was your big race of the season, one you have been training for over the course of a few months and there is no other option for you a week or two later, then go for it. You have nothing to lose. BUT if there is a way you can do another race in a few weeks time, and your heart tells you that this is a bad idea, listen to that little voice, and do not start.
Races will always be around, and you can always try again. The training was not a waste, as you got stronger over the course of months, not just one day. You can always come back to running, but it is not worth putting yourself at risk of further setback by racing, and especially risking damaging your confidence, that is so fragile anyway.
Sit down quietly by yourself and really think about all the factors in your situation. You WILL know the answer, you just have to trust yourself. Just like I mentioned last Friday in my post about 7 ways to make sure you do not slow down in a race!
Be Brave. Be Strong. Be You!
What was the best advice about running while sick you have been given?