Turtle to Turbo Speed: Is it Wise to Run Through Injury and Illness

By Marcia Horn Noyes

Factoring illness and injury into a marathon attempt does not enter the mind of a novice runner. However, seasoned runners know both illness and injury are typically inevitable at some point along the journey. I’m neither a novice nor a seasoned runner, but alas, I did not factor the past 30 days of sporadic downtime into my plans.

Earlier in the month, I had to diagnose my symptoms when a severe sore throat, body aches and a low-grade fever knocked me off my sneakers. Didn’t seek treatment until things got so bad that I could no longer sleep. One night at 10:30, I asked my daughters to search iTriage for an urgent care center or retail clinic that could see me that late at night. Eventually they found a downtown location for AfterOurs Urgent Care that was open until midnight and then hauled me in. Best as could be determined, I had signs of Strep Throat. My training schedule was seriously curtailed with that and I spent many days just walking, instead of running.

Since drinking liquids during this time seemed to feel more like swallowing a pincushion, I cut back my food intake to stymy the pain. Without my daily runs, I became a moaning, moody bear. Runners don’t tolerate days off very well and I was one of those that could see my training going by the wayside. In a 2004 Runner’s World writer Marc Bloom offered some great advice gleaned from recent research in “Should You Run When You’re Sick?” One quoted source in the piece says that he uses the “neck rule” – symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off; symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.

Do No Harm

In my case, the biggest symptom centered in my neck (throat area); to me that was borderline between “go” and “no go.” So, I queried our iTriage, trusted source, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Wayne Guerra. His advice seemed more applicable to my particular situation. “Any condition that prevents you from staying hydrated – nausea, diarrhea, and in your case – difficulty swallowing – can cause you harm,” he explained.  “Those who monitor their heart rate while training will notice that their heart rate becomes elevated and can become irregular. Both of these conditions are harmful to your body and training.”

In my case, I also had fever and for this Dr. Guerra’s advice was straightforward, “If you have a fever, even if the fever has come down, take precautionary action. The fever may have been caused by a virus and a small subsection of people can get a viral infection of the heart called myocarditis.”

Pushing Through Your Symptoms

After fully healed from the illness, I had maybe a week or two before suffering a minor, but nagging back injury. Again, I asked Dr. Guerra’s advice about how others should handle sudden injuries. “Many people think they can run through their injuries, but in fact, what they are doing is delaying their total recovery,” he explained. “An injury that would have taken 2-3 days to heal suddenly sets you back 1 to 2 weeks.” I reluctantly listened and heeded his advice.

I went on to ask if he had encountered any patients in his ER that had ignored the symptom warning signs and had created more problems. He smiled and said, “Happens all the time. I’ve seen people run through a heart attack and only stop when they couldn’t breath.”

Seeking Early Care

If you have an injury or illness that is sidelining your training, seek the proper medical provider to treat your condition. Download the iTriage app today to find the closest provider wherever you are.

View the Marathon Progress

Are you on Facebook? Have you “liked” the iTriage fan page yet? Now is the time. You can see my latest marathon progress photo on the page, plus the three before that one. They all give a good indication of how this running stuff is working. If you are fan, you’ll get early notification of the next contest. It will be a good one!

  • Carly

    Glad to see that you took Dr. Guerra’s advice and waited until you were better before you hit the running trail again. It’s hard to believe someone would run through a heart attack, but some people just don’t like to follow common sense. I’m looking forward to following your marathon progress!

  • Bill

    People run through heart attacks? That’s a little too much dedication.

    Good to know that anytime I feel slightly injured or sick it’s a good excuse to not exercise. :)

    • Marcia Horn Noyes

      Yes, Bill, that surprised me, too. That’s one I just had to share. Amazing what you can learn from the heart of the ER. –Marcia

  • David (Mission Viejo, CA)

    I know how hard it can be to take time off from training but you managed to keep your eye on the end game, and that is completing the marathon and qualifying for Boston. So, when your body told you R&R was the order of the day you were wise to listen. Sure it set you back in the near-term, but your long-term goals could have suffered serious setbacks had you not listened to your body. Glad to see that you are totally undaunted in your pursuit of getting to Boston by way of Austin.

    So I have to ask, are you going to be wearing burnt orange when you run in Austin?

    Sending you wishes for best of luck and continued success in your training.

    -David

    • Marcia Horn Noyes

      David, thank you for your continued support in this endeavor. Burnt orange, eh? Good thought, but it will probably be neon yellow or black. I need to stand out in the sea of white so that friends and family can quickly find me.
      –Marcia

  • Parker

    I recently saw the movie “Karate Kid” which is highly inspirational. The kid will try to fight even against his worst injury! To tackle everything, we should also have a sound mind for a sound body despite taking recovery measures. Your advice is all new and let everybody knows about this piece of information.

    • Marcia Horn Noyes

      Yes, fighting through injury is never wise. Listening through injury, much more prudent.

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