I’ve Been Afraid To Run

I had my first good run in over two months. It was only 3.2 miles, but the weather was perfect and I felt great.

On March 30th, I ran 12.2 miles. It was a horrible run – I couldn’t breathe well from the beginning of the run. We’d just gotten back from a week of vacation in Mexico and I’d done 27 miles in the past five days. It was my third to last week of training before the Boston Marathon and I was planning on capping off a heavy week with a 15+ miles. After 12.2 miles, covered in a snail like pace of over 2:42:00, I called it quits. When I got home, I laid down on the ground to stretch and immediately couldn’t breathe. As in – not at all – zero oxygen getting in. After 15 seconds, I panicked and realized that if I didn’t figure out what was going on in the next 30 seconds I was going to be in serious trouble. I sat up and managed to choke down some air. After stabilizing, I told Amy what was going on. She tossed me in the car and drove me to urgent care, where I learned about bronco spasms and what a nebulizer was.

I took a week of antibiotics and tried again for a short run the following Saturday. I covered 3.2 miles (same as today) but couldn’t breath and my HR was at 170 within two miles. Crazy. I decided not to run the Boston Marathon (in two weeks) and began what turned into a bizarre and scary three weeks of investigation into all the things that could be wrong.

All the bad, scary tests came back negative. No cancer. No heart muscle damage. No pulmonary embolism. No lung impairment. After ten days on prednisone, I could breathe better but felt completely like shit. Every night I woke up after a few hours of sleep in a swimming pool of my own sweat. It got so bad that Amy put a garbage back under my sheet so I wouldn’t ruin the mattress.

I ran eight times in May – never more than 4 miles. Most of the runs were tentative – slow and careful. None felt normal. None were satisfying, except the four mile one in Tucson during our week off the grid. My weight went from 205 (before all of this) to 200 after the prednisone to 214 this morning. Clearly I was not finding any sort of physical equilibrium.

Today felt right. After two miles, it occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking about my breathing for the first time on a run since my shitty 12.2 mile run. I was just running, enjoying the morning, and smiling at the sunshine. I wasn’t scared of dying on my run anymore. I felt normal again. Well – as normal as I ever feel. Finally.

  • datachick

    Great news. Have you worked in some slower race walking? I wonder if that might help, too.

    • For the last five years I’ve been doing an 8:2 or 9:1 run:walk pattern. But this cycle I decided to just run – no walking – and it feels good.

      • datachick

        I also do Galloway method. In the past I’ve done some non-walk break running. This year I’m really struggling, so my walk breaks have increased.

        I’m training for a Dopey, and I need to build some speed into my distance running. Guess I just need to get out there more.

  • Jana

    Mr Feld, this is my problem too, I am “Afraid to Run” I do not have the same situation as you. I developed a bad case of plantar fasciitis. So bad that I ended up in the 5% group who need surgery. It has screwed up two years of my physical fitness life. Now I’m all healed and I want to run and do all kinds of other fitness activities, but the fear of going back into the worst misery on earth keeps me paralyzed.

    That’s it! I’m going outside right now and do it. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Go @disqus_OebYDvqGsw:disqus! Sending you good foot karma.

  • Awesome that you are back to running! There has been one or more debilitating respiratory bugs circulating the western states for months. Mine seemed to start as a simple cold in April and I’m only now getting back to short runs after a antibiotic pulse in May. My office of ~500 in Austin has been a coughing petri dish since March.

    • Yeah – it’s been a rough spring. In this case, I think I got poisoned by something industrial (pesticide?) in Mexico.

  • Get well Brad!

    • Thx @sotirov:disqus – appreciate the !

  • Nathan Gantz

    From one runner to another, congratulations. Safety first, but ambition close second!

    • Thx. Yeah – it’s such a relief to just get out there and run without being in my head about it.

  • CherylJDale

    There has been one or more debilitating respiratory bugs circulating the western states for months. Mine seemed to start as a simple cold in April and I’m only now getting back to short runs after a antibiotic pulse in May. My office of ~500 in Austin has been a coughing petri dish since March. http://qr.net/BkCr

  • Thanks for sharing. I’ve learned over the years that we can’t really fight our body. Not in “normal life” and especially not as runners. Not knowing what’s going on is of course the scary part. Insecurity in our bodies is a major factor. But it’s also something that keeps us humble and in check. One the upside you’ve got some thorough testing and know that everything else is fine with you. I think you have many miles left in the tank. Bring them on at your own pace and you’ll be ok 🙂

  • jheltzer

    glad to hear it Brad, seems like you are moving in the right direction. Keep it up, you’ll get there!

  • StevenHB

    Glad that you’re feeling better, Brad!

  • Had similar issue while preparing for Napa Triathlon in April. As race was approaching I tried to push bit harder in order to check whether I can reach goal I’ve set for that race. At same time, while preparing for race, I’ve also strained myself mentally and had long hours and weekends.

    Week and half before race, I was doing last preparation for triathlon. During that session, I’ve noticed strong chest pain while swimming and during bike ride I’ve faced head strong wind. Wind slowed me down and I had to put more effort in order to reach goal set. My legs started to shake and hart beat increased more then usual, but I ignored signals and said to myself that I’m just being lazy (?!?). So I pushed.

    After running I could not breath properly and faced chest pain on each deep breath.

    Decided to rest for couple of days and retry evaluation. Next time, during swimming I was breathing irregularly and check pain came back. So, I gave up during swimming session and decided not to do triathlon.

    In upcoming weeks I’ve conducted series of test similar to what you have done. All tests where good and doctors said that I’m in better shape then average person.

    I worried what could be wrong me. Will I ever be able to do sports on regular basis? Did I pushed too hard and caused hard anomaly? Even short bike commutes to work caused chest pain and breathing issues.

    Key in recovery for myself was focusing on something else but issues. One day I saw tweet that Venture Deals online course was about to start. Even though I bought book long time ago, I had no chance to read it. Course seemed like win-win. Long story short, by the end of course I’ve noticed that I could swim properly and that I’m not thinking about breathing or chest pain.

    It is pretty interesting that you’ve had similar issues during course. I’m glad that you are back on track, I know how much it meant to me to be able to sports on regular basis.

  • ktinboulder

    Wow! Really glad you’re feeling better man. So good to hear.

  • Sounds appalling. Time to start swimming.

  • RBC

    Good for you. My sense is before your bike accident you wouldn’t have known to pull out of the Boston Marathon but you’ve got a better speed gauge going on. Glad you’ve recovered your health!

  • dstudeba

    Congrats Brad, you really realize how much you appreciate running when it gets taken away from you. Enjoy the road back!

  • Holly Hamann

    There has definitely been something up with Colorado this season. Lots of bronchitis, high pollen counts, and lung distress. I had a very similar experience, ended up in urgent care on a nebulizer and prednisone for a week (that stuff makes you feel bionic, doesn’t it?). Couldn’t run for a month and still babying my lungs. So glad you are feeling better!

  • Congrats and good luck keeping it up Brad. Getting to the point where you can run without being mentally preoccupied about injury, condition or problem X (whatever X happens to be) is at least half the battle.

  • Elizabeth Kraus

    I’ve been meaning to mention this to you for a while, but have you ever considered running in Kangoo Jumps boots as a way to mix up your run (twice per week is perfect)? They look pretty funny, but they speed recovery and produce a lymphatic flush that has been a life saver for my stress reduction. Whenever I start to feel really overwhelmed or depressed, I take a stroll in these for 20 minutes. Here is some info about them. You can buy them online or I can get a pair for you from the Colorado rep who sources them for my fitness classes: http://www.takeitoutfitness.com/about-kangoo-jumps.html

  • laurayecies

    I assume you did an allergy/asthma workup? Denver has the top people for that. Could be something going on there and exercise and/or infection can definitely trigger. Glad you’re better.

  • I have asthma so I know similar feelings. It is terrifying. I’m glad to hear you are doing well.

  • kermit64113

    Brad, I really understand your situation as it hit me last summer. Consistent 6-12 mile runs, and, all of a sudden, a wall. Do you listen to music when you run? I started listening to nothing (had been listening to music that got my breathing all out of sync) and then started working in classical (Beethoven, symphony #2). 6 turned into 7 into 10 and back to 12 no issues. Get back on the horse (yes, I read the previous blog about your new fondness for horses). – Jim Patterson

  • I have piriformis syndrome from running hills and likely will never run again. All the cures are hooey. Darn darn darn.

  • “I was just running, enjoying the morning, and smiling at the sunshine”. Few pleasures are as great as this — grats on it feeling right again!

  • Mariah Lichtenstern

    Prednisone is evil…and developing a dependency Is horrific -watched what it did to my RN mom. l was on it a lot in my youth (had lots of respiratory issues and collapsed thinking was going to die during my first & last Jessie Owens marathon at 8yrs old). When I got out on my own I started exploring alternatives.

    You may want to look into acupuncture; they can probably get to the bottom of the problem. Worked wonders with several conditions in my household. Western medicine is great for acute care but is more about treating symptoms.

    Still have an aversion to running but admire those that do. My husband is a runner (although he doesn’t do it so much these days), so I can imagine what an important part of your lifestyle it is. Standing in agreement for your full recovery!

  • Steve Bell

    Brad, take it *easy*, man! Runner-to-runner… your body is talking to you.