Changing Your Marathon Training Because of Illness

Cutting back on your training miles and listening to your body is the best way to show up ready to race.

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I used your programs to run two half marathons in the fall, and now I am following Novice 2 in preparation for the Boston Marathon. I am in Week 13, with a 19-mile long run tomorrow. I’ve followed the program pretty much on point: a few missed or switched miles, but nothing major. This week, however, I’ve come down with a strep throat and have been on antibiotics for 48 hours with some symptoms remaining. I do not think I can complete 19 miles tomorrow, or do much of any running this week. I’m really bummed that I became so ill during such a critical part of the program after trudging through snow and below-zero temps all winter! My remaining long runs are supposed to be: 19, 12, 20, 12, 8, 26.2. I am considering two options: 1) Run my 19- and 20-milers in back-to-back weeks, making my long runs: 19, 20, 12, 8, 26.2; or 2) Shorten my taper by a week, making my long runs: 19, 12, 20, 12, 26.2. Do either of my plans sound logical?


Yes, both plans sound logical for a normal healthy runner, who lost a week’s training. I’m not sure either approach makes much sense for someone on antibiotics. Recently I fielded another question from a runner also on antibiotics, and I offered Tough Love, trying to scare him into not going out while ill enough to need these miracle drugs, which sometimes have side effects. Yes, Boston 2014 will be an important race with 36,000 in the field remembering the tragedy from last year. But Boston 2014 promises to be an experience more than a competition. Your main worry should be getting to Boston healthy, not getting there ready to nail a Personal Record. Relax. Go to Boston to be part of the experience. With that attitude, you should be able to accept my advice to cut way back on your training miles. Forget your two options. Listen to your body until you are healthy again. I will be in Boston at the Human Kinetics booth autographing my book 4:09:43. Come by and tell me if what I say above makes sense.

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