Posts Tagged ‘flu’

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#50 – Running a Fever

27 February 2008

Most of the time the word “running” evokes positive thoughts – running with dogs, running on trails, running for fun, running a race, running to be alive.

Notice that “running a fever” is not one of them, nor is “runny nose” or “running to the store to get medication”.  Recently I came down with the flu, apparently for the first time in my adult life because I have never felt so physically miserable before!  Even the low point of my first ultramarathon didn’t feel so bad in comparison.  Also for the first time I had to call in sick at work as my wife and I were both non-functional on Monday.

I awoke that morning after a night of fruitless attempted sleep and staggered down the hallway to the easy chair, where I remained for the next few hours, unable to move.  Despite doing nothing but sitting, my heart rate was around 120 bpm!  More than double my usual resting pulse.  My body was working hard but I wasn’t going anywhere.

Finally I took my temperature and was stunned to see the mercury lined up with 102.5 on the scale!  I drank a couple glasses of ice water and an hour later my temp was down to 101.8 and I was feeling much better.  Another hour went by and the thermometer read 101 flat, which I maintained the rest of the day.

I wonder if my system was overheated due to the fever?  Being unable to thermally self-regulate, an external cooling source (ice water) was required to bring my physiology under control.  The high heat of a fever is beneficial to the immune system and it’s also a more hostile environment for the virus, but apparently 102.5 was borderline too hot for the rest of the body.

Interestingly, according to a fascinating article about exercising in the cold from the bloggers at The Science of Sport, the human body quickly heats up to about 102 degrees during physical exertion.  Maybe running a marathon isn’t quite so different from running a fever after all!

We need look no further than the 2007 Chicago Disaster to realize that 102 degrees of body temperature is very close to our physical limits.  When stressed to the point of being unable to thermoregulate, many marathoners in Chicago required external heat control (such misting fans or ice cubes handed out by spectators) in order to maintain a safe body temperature.

I suppose I could’ve stepped outside into the subfreezing Michigan winter to cool off, but I’ll save my physiological challenges for my foot running not my fever running, thank you.  Besides, hydration is quite important when sick, giving my ice water remedy a double-whammy of effectiveness.

Hydration, thermoregulation, heart rate…  is there any other way to relate the flu with running?  Why of course – body fat.  Two days of no appetite resulted in a net loss of seven pounds, a fat-burning trait that my body would do well to make use of during my next ultramarathon!

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