Running with A Cold

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Running With A ColdRunning with a cold? I’ve recently come across this dilemma.   I have a pretty big race coming up, there are about two weeks until the start, and I’m catching a cold!  I’ve been training for about fourteen weeks now, and am trying to figure out whether it is work running with a cold or whether I should stop and rest.

In the end I’ve decided that running with a cold will do me more harm than good.

Running with a Cold versus Rest

I decided resting versus running with a cold by weighing the benefits versus disadvantages of continuing to train versus resting.


Here some of the items I thought of:

  • Conditioning – I’ve read that conditioning last for three weeks before decreasing due to inactivity.
  • Immune System – The physical stress of running decreases your body’s natural defense against colds. If you are on the fringe of having a full-blown cold, a long run just may tip the scale out of your favor.
  • Duration of a Cold – My colds usually last a week to two weeks.  They seem to get worse when I’m tired.
  • Rest – The more rest I get, in the form of sleep, and lounging around, the better I feel.

So based on these observations and some informal knowledge, I reasoned it is better for me to lay off running for the week, suck it up, get over my cold, and be fresh for my race, as opposed to trying to adhere to my training schedule and eke out more performance.

In other words, I think at this point in my training, I’ll run a better race if I’m healthy, rather than continue to train, and run sick.  Does that make sense?

Oh, and I am also going on personal experience here!

Last year I ran the Detroit Marathon and continued running with a cold and subsequently totally blew the race.  I never got over the cold, which lingered for three weeks, and had to participate in the Marathon with a slight cough and runny nose.  I was so gassed by mile sixteen I was bummed. And this was the marathon!  I had trained so hard for this one, I was sure I was going to break my PR (Personal Record) by ten minutes; sadly not so.

Running With A Cold

You Really are Running with a Cold?

If you insist on running with a cold, then use this rule of thumb to decide if it is good for you:

  • If cold is above the neck, then it is safe to run.  Above the neck symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, and sore throat.
  • If the cold is below the neck, then rest.  Kick back and watch TV!  Below neck symptoms include coughing and body aches.
  • Also, never run with a fever.
Remember, I’m not a doctor.  So please talk to your doctor in you are in doubt of yourself.

Running With a Cold In Conclusion

I’ve decided that at this stage in my training plan that it the added benefit of training doesn’t outweigh the negative affect of having lingering cold during the race.  Given there are only two weeks until the race, I’m more worried about getting well than eking out another 5 seconds on pace.  I already have the conditioning so another long run won’t make me more conditioned, I could use another tempo run or two, but I can live with out it.  I have hit all my training times so far, so I’m comfortable I’m on track.  If I need to, I’ll just tweak my times a bit and shoot for a somewhat slower yet just as satisfying finish time.
So have you had to make this or a similiar decision?  I would like to hear your comments.  We are in running for the long term, and the trade-off we all make, to balance running with life are most interesting!


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