Running With Asthma

Finished a 1/2 Marathon with Asthma
February 4, 2009, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Asthma

Start line for the marathon. I’m in there somewhere…

The short answer is that I finished the 1/2 marathon in November.  If you read my previous posts, I was really anxious about whether I would be able to go the full 13.1.  I did.  The longer answer is that as soon as I crossed the finish line, I went into a full blown asthma attack!  It wasn’t pretty.  The medics came over with a gurney and wheeled me over to their first aid station, but not before I had  my finisher’s medal around my neck.  Priorities!

The reason for the attack? Emotions. I saw the finish line and couldn’t believe I had accomplished my goal. I broke into tears and all I could think about was, “Did I just do that? Did I really run 13.1 miles?” The lungs cannot multi-task. They cannot run and cry at the same time. I pushed forward to run across the finish, as I cried, and the lungs closed up in a nano-second. It was a classic attack: gasping for air, gasping for the inhaler, terrified I was going to pass out.

I ran a second 1/2 marathon in December.  I wasn’t going to sign up because I was afraid.  What if it happened again?  The day before the race in December, my husband talked me into running.  I hadn’t been training, just doing my normal runs.  My goal for the run in November was to finish; this time it was to finish without passing out!

Goal accomplished.  I had a little more fun the second time around, took in the scenery and just relaxed.  However, once I came to the finish line, my emotions started to get away from me again and my lungs threatened to close again.  My husband said it looked like I was running backwards and forwards at the same time.  I think I was because that is what it felt like.

The ambivalence of seeing the word “finish” and then having to run under and across it is uncomfortable.  I suppose that is why it took me so long to add this post.  I’m just not sure  what to think anymore.  Obviously I can run 13.1 miles. Obviously the asthma isn’t holding me back to the point of not doing what I want. But what?

My neighbor said to me it’s all in my head.  The whole asthma thing.  I rolled my eyes of course, because that is what I do when I hear something silly.  He thinks it is my body’s response to some mental blocks of “not being…” (fill in the blank: not being good enough, not being able to keep up, etc. etc.) Okay, whatever. Maybe it is organic as he says.  I don’t think so.  But I’ll keep thinking about it.

I do know that short runs seem to exacerbate my lungs more than long runs; the harder I push up a hill and force them to open up, the better I feel. Metaphor?  The more long runs I do (5 or more miles),  the faster I become and the better my breathing is. One of these days I’ll figure this out; when I do, I’ll let you know.  In the meantime, read Runner’s Word Magazine.  It’s amazing.

UPDATE: Reading this post in 2015 makes me wonder what all the gloom and doom was about. This post should have been shouting with joy that I ran a half-marathon with asthma! I answered the question “Can I?” with a resounding “Yes! You can!” It amazes me how deep the negativity and insecurity was. Why was I not willing to be joyful in a success?

–Tara Schiro is the author of No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

4 Comments so far
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Im 37. I just finished a half up in kenosha (my 6th). In addition to being asthmatic (often allergy and cold weather induced), im flat-footed, and on the heavier side (5’10, 215-220); my halfs have been getting progressively worse (granted my 1st one i did at a svelt 183, ran it in 1:56 with a shin splint, at 30 yrs of age. I wont accept age (just yet). besides mentally thinking about these things, i feel i need some motivational words to continue on, not get discouragewith my performances, and hopefully improve (and get back under 200 lbs); any words of wisdom
btw- also ran the chicage marathon in 04 and 05 (4:36, 4:47 respectively)


Comment by Jack Powitz

You might want to take a look at my most recent post: August 13, 2010, “Running With Asthma, Is It All In Your Head?” I would also take a look at your recent training. Right everything down. Maybe you are not training and eating as you used to? No worries, we all have our down seasons. I just came out of a 9 month down season but am now back on track doing 5K’s and training for an upcoming 1/2 and full in the Fall and Spring. You can do it!!


Comment by taraschiro

Im training now for the 2010 London Marathon and as a 50+ never run before person with Asthma I have to say that I do think some of the problems are down to the mind. The first few weeks of training I was very frightened; now though I relax when its getting tough, and give myself a few minutes when I get really short to just recover. Most of all I tell myself how much I’m enjoying it and get a real buzz after a long run.


Comment by sue

I’m in my first week of training for a half-marathon I plan on doing in December…so far it was okay until yesterday when I was supposed to run 8.5 miles. My asthma messed me up the entire time after about 1.7 miles. I couldn’t even finish and had to stop at 6 miles. It took me an hour and a half JUST for those 6!! you can imagine the disappointment…so I was wondering if your times were ever disappointing at the beginning? How long till you built your “endurance” up? I’m wondering if it’ll get better.


Comment by Jessica

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