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Running

Thwarted By Pandemic

So, I’ve put my marathon training plans on hold. As of today, my marathon isn’t officially cancelled or postponed yet but I cannot imagine it’s going to go as planned on June 20. Assuming it is going to be, at the very least, postponed to later in the year, I was left with a few options.

I first considered just continuing with my training as planned and then deciding what to do once I reached the end of my training, probably opting to run a solo 26.2 time trial in my local area. After all, I’d still get to keep all of the fitness I earned along the way.

But, I started to hesitate with this idea as I read more and more about COVID-19, particularly how much harder it seems to hit people who have compromised immune systems. Yes, I’m young(ish), healthy, and fairly fit–my friends and family joke that I probably wouldn’t even notice if I was infected (doubtful). Yes, there’s a large body of evidence that supports the idea that people that regularly exercise have stronger immune systems. But there’s some additional research that seems to suggest there’s a point where taxing your body too much actually has the opposite effect.

Graphing this relationship between training intensity and immune system function has been interpreted as a J-Curve.

J-Curve graph showing relationship between exercise and infection risk.
Image credit: PodiumRunner.com

It’s hard to tell where my personal marathon training puts me on that curve. Maybe the level of training I was partaking in would have me right at the bottom of that curve. But maybe not. Maybe it puts me at an above-average risk for infection.

Is now the best time to ramp my training up, week after week, for a race that’s not even going to occur? As more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed across the country, and beginning to infiltrate my remote state and rural community, is it wise to push myself too far physically?

I agonized over the decision but ultimately decided I was going to play it safe(er) and scale back my running to focus more on maintenance with some basebuilding. I wanted to keep myself in a position to where I could jump back into a marathon plan, even an abbreviated one, if things turned around quickly.

What I quickly learned is that I still need a plan. After 5 weeks of having every run scheduled for me, I wasn’t accustomed to doing the thinking for myself. Fortunately, someone already did the thinking for me. Running coach Steve Palladino put together some power and duration plans specifically for the situation that the world has found itself in. He offers a number of different 10-week plans for maintaining (with a slight increase over the course of the training cycle) and building fitness when you can’t race. I gladly paid the less than $10 price to have someone tell me what to do again.

His plans are integrated with the Final Surge training platform, which plays real nice with my Stryd powermeter and my Garmin 645m watch.

So for now, this is what I’m doing. I’m taking it easier, yet still building my fitness. I’m respecting social distancing measures, I’m staying hydrated, I’m getting sleep, and I’m even doing more of the strength and mobility work I had been slacking on. This troubling time we’re in will most certainly ease up. The future might look different than what we’re used to. Running races might look totally different for awhile. But I’m staying optimistic. I’m grateful that my physical activity of choice is one that I can practice while maintaining social distance, and doesn’t rely on facilities that people no longer have access to.

My wish is for everyone to be well, remain hopeful, and try to find gratitude for the things we’re still fortunate to have.

Stay safe and healthy.