Cold and flu season fire up just as runners training for fall's half and full marathons hit the deepest parts of their training schedules. The overlap can be cruel, and forces us to decide whether we should stick to those schedules or take a sick day.
The answer, said Rahul Kapur, chief medical physician for Penn Athletics and Penn Sports Medicine, depends on how sick you are, and with what.
With a cold, he said, you could feel better by running for two reasons. The first is that running lifts your mood. "You get a kind of euphoria and adrenaline surge, and it just makes you feel better," he said.
When I run with a cold, I'm not sitting at my desk dwelling on how miserable I feel, or if I have enough tissues.
Running can also help "clear your secretions," said Kapur - in lay terms, it clears out your snot. My nose didn't run while I was out on the road, though it started back up as soon as I stopped. It was a short reprieve but a good one.
Cold running isn't for everyone, though. If you have exercise-induced asthma, Kapur said, you're probably better off resting because the asthma plus a cold can make you feel worse.
If you do decide to run, take it outside. No need to spread your cold to everyone else in the gym.
If your illness comes with a fever, don't run, Kapur said. Your core temperature is already elevated, and running will further bump it up, which puts you at higher risk for hypothermia.
Ditto for any kind of bug that's already sapped you. "Sometimes you're not able to keep up with your fluid losses. You already lose it via sweat, and if you're having an illness that includes vomiting or diarrhea, you're not going to be able to keep up that fluid level," he said, which puts you at risk of dehydration, and no one wants an IV in the arm if they can avoid it.
There is good news here, though, Kapur said. Multiple studies have found that people who engage in moderate exercise, like running, have a decreased risk of infection and are less likely to catch the common cold. The reason isn't exactly known, he said, though it could be "an indirect effect of being healthier" as runners tend to sleep more and eat healthier than those who don't work out.
And if you really feel bad, cold or flu or what have you, taking one day off is not going to wreck your race. Go with your gut - whether it's sick or not.
Running: Racing Schedule
Hot Diggity Labor Day 10K Trail Run and 2-Mile Fun Run, 9:30 a.m. Mercer County Park West picnic area, West Windsor, N.J., sponsored by the Bucks County Speedsters. buckscountyspeedsters.com
Mayor's Labor Day Race, Ocean City, N.J., 9 a.m. 23d Street beach. 5-mile run & 1-mile fun run/walk. Ocean City Recreation. ocnj.us/race-events
Rock n' Roll Back to School Run 5K & 1 mile, St. Charles Borromeo in Cinnaminson. 5K 9 a.m. start, 1 mile 10 a.m.
Pace Yourself for Parkinson's 5K, 9 a.m., Franconia Community Park. Entry fee $20. Registration: theparkinsoncouncil.org
Run Now for Autism Speaks 5K, Wildwood, N.J. 8:30 a.m. start, $25 pre, $30 post. Rio Grand and Ocean Avenue.
Seedorf-McMeekin Memorial 5K, Atlantic City. 9:05 a.m. start, $15 preregistration, $20 post, starts at Harrys Oyster Bar.
Run for Bud (Kern) 5K, Somers Point, N.J.. 9 a.m. start, $22.50 pre, $25 post. Kennedy Park (at the foot of the causeway into Ocean City).
Stephanie Burke Beach Run 5K, Brigantine, N.J. 5 p.m. start, $25 pre, $30 post. Starts at 15th street south at the pavilion.
Run for Our Troops 5K, Pennsauken. 8:30 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. Cooper River Park Stadium.
5th Annual 5K Run & Family Fun Walk, Pinelands Regional High School, Little Egg Harbor Township. Register: lfyc.lighthousealliance.net; Fees: $25 per person; $60 for family of four, $10 each additional family member. Walkers: free. Register online or 7 a.m. event day: Check-in and registration, 8:30 a.m. start.
Holy Child Academy 5K and 1 mile Kids' Fun Run, 8:30 a.m., Holy Child Academy, Drexel Hill, Fee: 5K, $20, race day: through Sept. 6, $25. Fun Run, $10.
LBI Shamrock 5K, Ship Bottom, N.J. 9 a.m. start, registration $30.
Patriot Day 5K, Exton. patriotday5k.com, contact Mia Toschi at email@example.com.
St John the Baptist 5K Lake Run, Lake Nockamixon State Park. $20 preregistration, $25 race day (7:15 a.m.) Kids half-mile run (free), 8 a.m. Race starts 8:30. m.active.com
Run for the Art of It 5K, Atlantic City, 8 a.m. start at the Music Pier at the north end of the Boardwalk. $25 entry fee, 70+ top age group.
Dustin Deckard Memorial 5K, Pennsville, N.J. 9 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. 49 Lakeview Ave.
Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon, formerly known as the Philadelphia Distance Run. Free Health & Fitness Expo at the Convention Center, Sept. 13-14. Registration and information: RunRocknRoll.com/Philadelphia
Battle the Beach 5K, Wildwood, N.J. 8 a.m. start, $20 but runners must fund-raise $75. Obstacles on beach, get splattered with dye, etc.
RSDSA 3.65-mile Fun Run/Walk, Cooper River Park Stadium, Pennsauken, 9 a.m. start, $25 preregistration, $35 race day, SJTiming.com,firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cape May Beach Front Run 5M, 2M, Cape May, 8:30 a.m. Mile start, 9:15 a.m. 5-mile start. $20 pre, $25 post. Start/Finish at the Cape May Convention Center on the beachfront.
Virtua Health/Fitness 5K, Mount Holly, 8:30 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post.
5-year age groups. Starts at 520 Jacksonville Rd.
Deborah Hospital Foundation 5K, Medford, 9 a.m. start, $20 pre, $25 post. Starts at Freedom Park
RBG Rotary 5K, Runnemede, 8:30 a.m., $20 pre, $25 post. Starts at Triton High School
New Britain Twp. Business Alliance 5K, North Branch Park, 207 Park Ave., Chalfont. Contact Cathy Scanlon at email@example.com. Registration: pretzelcitysports.com
Run for Life 5K, Vineland, N.J., 9 a.m. start, Starts at 2142 E. Wheat Rd.
Fly Like an Eagle 5K, Egg Harbor Twp., N.J., 10 a.m. start, $25 entry fee. Egg Harbor Township High School
Please e-mail date, name of race, site, time and fee, plus registration information to sports editor John Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.