Monthly Archives: March 2018

Getting the Flu in the Middle of Marathon Training: The Smack in the Face I Needed

In early February, I woke up with a cough. I still worked out since I felt fine otherwise but later that night, I started running a fever, which has not happened since middle school. And, of course, the first things I said to myself were, “this can’t be happening. I HAVE to hand in my dissertation on February 21. I HAVE to get my long run in because I am running the Boston Marathon in April. I can’t be sick.”

Long story short, a trip to an urgent care center in Watertown after a big spike in fever on Saturday morning confirmed it was the flu. And not just any flu, the worst flu of my life. Whether it was good timing or not, I was sick and the kind of sick where I did not even have enough energy to worry about the fact that I was sick. And that is why, in many ways—while I would not wish this flu on ANYONE and I mean, ANYONE because it was that awful—it was a positive learning experience.

I know this flu has affected a lot of people, and many of my fellow graduate students and runners in training for a big race,  have asked me desperately, “When will it be over?” “When do you get back to training?” “What do I do?” Here are some thoughts.

Doctors are not God. You can and should speak up.

Before Bryan had to drive me to urgent care, I went to another doctor and was told it was just a cold. I should have demanded a flu test. I now advise anyone who goes to the doctor during flu season to do this. The sooner you get Tamiflu the better.  I even told my students that they can say “my theology professor told me to do it.”

Forced rest can be exactly what you need.

My mind and body often cry out for a break, but I rarely give it to them or only “partially” give it to them.

“I’ll run and just cut it a bit short or go an easier pace.”

“I’ll go home and sit in my pajamas but read that article, write that chapter, etc.”

“I’ll just push through the pain and relax tonight.”

When we arrived at the urgent care center, my brain was so foggy that Bryan filled out the medical information sheet for me, so there was no way I was answering e-mails or writing. On the drive home, watching runners felt painful, there was no way I putting my running shoes on, even for an easy couple of miles.

The world will not end if you are sick.

When I was in college, I never missed class. Ever. For anything. No matter how bad I felt. I was so worried that if I missed class, I would not get an A and then ruin my GPA and make the professor not like me anymore and not get into graduate school and and you get the picture…. Not healthy physically or mentally.

This flu season, I had no choice but to cancel a class and—gasp—I was the professor!  And—gasp—the world did not blow up. My syllabus did not blow up. My students are not scarred for life.

Same applies to running. Do not count days.

Running buddies who have been stricken with the flu have asked, “how long did it take you? When will I get back?” It’s different for everybody, but the more you rest, the greater your chances are of getting back to normal sooner. I did no exercise for an entire week. That’s right. AN ENTIRE WEEK. In the middle of training for Boston. And I SURVIVED. And had I counted the days and freaked out in the middle and said “oh no, it’s day 4, gotta get out there,” I probably would have delayed the comeback by another week. Relapse and flu complication due happen, often from doing too much too soon.

True love is not what you do when you go on fancy dates, it is what you do when you are at your worst.

When the fever was high, I could not think straight. My fiancé kept track of the hours and gave me my pills. He made me eggs and toast when I had no energy to think about food. We had plans for Super Bowl Sunday, which, of course, did not happen. My fever broke right before the game and I finally got an appetite. We ordered Thai food, drank Propel Fitness water, and sat and watched the game, and really enjoyed being together. Be with someone who loves to be with you, even when your hair is uncombed, your nose is running, and you are wearing a bathrobe.

The lessons learned from the flu should stick with you even post-flu.

The flu is bad. Just because the symptoms disappear does not mean you can jump right back into your normal routine and work yourself to the bone. Even now, I am not 100% myself. I am back to training and hitting my paces and loving my runs. But my mind and body have been through a lot and therefore, I’ve needed some extra recovery time after intense workouts and long runs and I’ve taken it. An extra rest day here and there is OK.

During the later stages of dissertating, I had horrible anxiety and insomnia. Since rest is really the only way to cure the flu, I was forced into making a better effort to reduce my stress and get more sleep. I am starting to prioritize these things in the same way I prioritize my research, my teaching, my training, and my relationships. I cannot be there for others if I cannot be there for myself.

Things worked out, though maybe not as planned.  

I handed in my dissertation on the afternoon of February 21. My defense is happening March 21.

I am still running the Boston Marathon and according to my PT and my running buddies, a PR is not out of reach. However, after the flu, I had to start following the “Kate Mroz Training Plan.” In other words, I am doing my own thing instead of following a specific training plan as I was pre-flu. As much as I still want that PR, I am also taking a step back to be grateful that I have this opportunity and to just try to enjoy it as much as I can.

By the end of this summer, I am going to be a doctor and a Boston Marathon finisher and a wife.
The road has been bumpy, but it has also been beautiful.