How to stop a cold a week before a marathon

On 21st July 2015 by Rachael

Well, that’s the question I asked the experts last Monday, when I woke up with aches and a sore throat with less than seven days before  the Fort William marathon. Read our three expert responses and whether it worked…

Carrot, apple and ginger

Sometimes, it’s simply a case of maranoia, an irrational fear of injury or illness, that can make you convinced you are ill when you are not. Alas, this time,  it is not simply my mind playing tricks.

With just over a week before the first Fort William marathon, a challenging, off-road 26.2miles on July 26th, 2015, I woke up to find that even my eyeballs and fingers ached. Swallowing was like gulping down a ball of spiked glass.

Of course, I won’t be the first, nor the last runner to come down with a cold or infection a week before a big race. So, I asked the experts, what can you do, if anything, to help prevent an infection turning into a full blown illness that will wipe you out, or certainly affect your race?

The GP:

According to Dr Juliet McGrattan, columnist for Women’s Running and blogger, the key is rest.

‘Sleep as much as you can, drink lots of water and eat healthily,’ she advises. ‘Include lots of citrus fruits and vegetables containing Vitamin C.’

According to some studies, a big dose of Vitamin C at the onset of a cold might shorten it’s duration, along with zinc.

You can find zinc in foods including beef, lamp, spinach and pumpkin seeds.

‘Zinc lozenges are also available and may help, although they can make you feel nauseated,’ adds Dr Juliet McGrattan.

The Massage Therapist:


Ordinarily, therapists advise you NOT to have a massage if you are feeling under the weather, and don’t if you are contagious.  But, if you have time before the race, having a massage could help.

‘A massage can actually speed up your recovery time,’ says a spokesperson for Performance Bodywork. ‘Although, be prepared for the fact that you might experience the full-blown symptoms of the sickness over 3-4 days, as the massage will push everything through your body, as opposed to letting it happen naturally at a slower rate over 1-2 weeks.’

The Nutritionist 

‘Exercise uses up antioxidants, which are the molecules that quench the immune suppressing free radicals, which are produced in higher amounts the more we train,’ explains Charlotte Watts, nutritional therapist, yoga teacher and author of The De-Stress Effect ‘So, you need to up your levels of healing antioxidant nutrients like zinc, selenium, vitamins A, C and E, which naturally occur in green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, a long with multi-coloured vegetables, beetroot, carrots, and peeprs along with ginger, garlic nuts and seeds.’

But most of all, Charlotte recommends sleep.

‘Inflammation pathways are heightened during exercise , because this helps muscles to repair. But it means that rest and recovery is vital to allow these responses, along with immune antibodies to work their magic.’

Did it work?

So, I took all of this onboard with massages, ten hours sleep per night on at least two nights and lots of freshly cooked food, along with fresh carrot, apple and ginger juice. And…drum roll, it worked! It took a week but my sore throat has gone, the aches and pains vanished and I managed to swerve the cold before it got it’s claws into me.

Which means, I now have no excuse. Four days and counting.

Comments are closed.