Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 5 Jul 1998 20:12:30 -0400

Predictable Flu

(from RC 274)

Someone using my name spoke at the Reno Air 15-K Showdown. If you happened to be there, I want you to know it wasn't the real me. And in the far more likely event that you weren't there, I want you to know the reason for my absence.

This guy was sweating, shaking and stammering. He acted terminally nervous, and I don't succumb to nerves after a thousand talks.

He stumbled around in search of a theme. Finding none, he cut his remarks short and let the program move on to interviews with the invited runners. I don't stop short, no matter how big the next acts.

Okay, that actually was a pale version of myself on stage. But I was trying to speak through a deepening case of the flu. By this point of the weekend I could barely remember my children's names, let alone give a coherent talk.

Herein lies a story. It would have been a good one to tell in Reno if the words had been with me. I could have confessed my mistakes and drawn widely applicable lessons. Now it goes into writing instead.

First let me say that flu is a rare visitor to this body. The last time was three years ago -- which also ties in with this story later.

My latest flu, the worst in memory, started at the Vancouver Marathon. The symptoms didn't appear then, but that's when I put this illness on next month's calendar.

Marathon recovery is slow. The body can absorb that one blow but doesn't want to take another sizable one for a long time.

I once wrote of needing one easy day for each mile of the race before running anything hard again. That's nearly four weeks.

Now I know that's not long enough for me. In fact, recent experience tells me that the four-week mark is the most risky time.

Recovery isn't complete, yet I'm itching for some normal running after all those short days. Getting back to normal for me means climbing over an hour again. Normal can still be too much at a time like this.

The next race came exactly four weeks after the marathon. The running would take little more than an hour, and I wouldn't race the distance. This is how I rationalized starting. The going was still tough, and the flu symptoms arrived the next day.

This flu wasn't an unlucky break. It was a predicable event, caused by the old mistake of not respecting the recovery time that a marathon demands.

While suffering, I checked old diaries to see when my last flu had come. It was 1995 -- starting four weeks and one day after a marathon, or precisely the timing of the latest case.

Coincidence? No, I'd call it a direct correlation.

Lessons? Just the old one that I have to keep relearning. Wait, wait and wait some more before running hard again after a marathon. A month's wait clearly isn't long enough, and I'm still learning what's right.

Easy runs aren't exciting. But they're much better than the nothing at all that I ran for 2-1/2 weeks because of the flu.


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