A Marathon Side Effect I Never Thought I’d be Talking About

I got a lot of things out of my second marathon, including feelings of accomplishment, a sense of pride and several free Luna bars. But there’s one thing I got that I could’ve done without.


And not of the roofing materials variety.

Okay, bear with me because I’m about to sound like Terry Bradshaw here, but if you’ve had the chickenpox, then you can get shingles. In fact, you can get shingles as much as anybody in the NFL.

Terry says: YOU can get shingles.

Also, you don’t have to be in your 70s to get it. I’m 38.

My second marathon back in September was tough. Probably the most difficult race I’ve done to date. By comparison, my first marathon seems like a piece of gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free cake. Basically, it was a salad.

The marathon’s main event was a mental and physical fight during the second half of the race. There was anger. There was crying. There was begging for bananas.

It also took me a lot longer to run it than I thought it would. I was run-walking for over five hours with my only energy sources being one Clif Bar, a few hunks of the aforementioned banana and my rekindled hatred for running.

Running’s not all bad. It can be good for the immune system…in “moderate” doses. But extended physical stress, such as what happens during a marathon (and marathon training), can suppress immune function.

Other things that occur around long-distance races can have a negative effect on the immune system, too, including poor sleep and nutrition, and psychological stress. Check, check and check.

My shingles symptoms showed up about three weeks after the marathon. For a few days, I thought I just kept getting  a piece of hair stuck inside the back of my shirt. After a week, I knew it had to be something else as it was getting worse. Yes, it took me a week. It itched, tingled and sometimes felt like something was biting me.

During one sleepless night before I was diagnosed, I lay there feeling the creepy crawlies on my back. In my delirious state, my imagination overtook my common sense and I thought, Am I a meth addict? Has someone been slipping me meth somehow?

Clearly, I have an overactive imagination, and should’ve stopped procrastinating and gone to the doctor sooner before I convinced myself that I somehow had become a meth addict without knowing it.

As it turned out, I made a check-up doctor appointment in August, and I was finally there last week sitting on the crinkly paper in my open-back gown, ready to ask about this weird itchy spot when the nurse came in and told me my doctor had left to deliver a baby. Ugh. Babies: Ruining schedules since forever.

So, I miraculously got a dermatologist appointment quickly. And that’s who diagnosed me. But since it’d been a month since all this had started, she said the virus is probably gone. The itching, however, goes on.


The good news is I had a very mild case of shingles in that I only have 5 or so bumps on my back. (If you Google shingles, you’ll see some horror-film worthy stuff.)

Now, I know what you are thinking. Isn’t there a shingles vaccine? 

The answer is, Yes. But who thinks about getting a shingles vaccine in their 30s? Not me. But maybe you should. If you’ve had chickenpox, it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I guess I should’ve listened to Terry Bradshaw.

3 Reasons I Quit Using a Training Plan

Why I Quit Using a Training Plan | Mom vs. Marathon


This week, I decided to break free from the training plan life! Here’s why:

1. Running is not my job.

Did you know that nobody is paying me to run? It’s ridiculous. So why do I always put running first?

I used to justify making running a priority because I was afraid I’d put on all the weight I’d lost. But I’ve known for a couple years now that I don’t need to run a bunch of miles to stay fit. More likely, it’s about procrastination.

There’s this thing I do where I focus on things I don’t really need to focus on in order to not focus on the things I should be focusing on. Got that? I use running to run from the hard stuff.

I have other things I want to do in my life and they don’t necessarily involve running. So I need to step back from obsessing about training plans and pie-in-the-sky running goals for a while and make these other things a priority. Mmmm. Pie.

This doesn’t mean I get to live the sloth life. Short sprinting and weights sessions usually take less than 30 minutes (and are better for me…read on).

2. Slow running wasn’t fun.

Now that I’ve expelled the marathon bug from my system (which was a painful process, I should add), I only want to focus on things I love to do. MAF was a struggle. MAF running was slow, boring and my foot hurt after. Also I wanted to eat all the things.

I didn’t love it. And I think we all know by now that if you aren’t having fun, you won’t do it. And that’s what was happening to me.

I do, however, love to sprint. I love the feeling of pushing myself to the edge and then taking a nice relaxing break. Sprint intervals are the yin and yang of running.

Yesterday, I did one of my favorite interval workouts on the treadmill. I can’t remember where I got it, maybe from Metabolic Effect. If you’re looking for a good sprint workout, you should try this one. (The best part is it’s only 20 minutes!)

First, of course, warm up for 5-10 minutes. My pre-sprinting warm-up routine usually consists of 5 forward lunges on each leg, 5 backward lunges on each leg, 5 side lunges on each leg, 10 forward leg swings on each leg, 10 backward leg swings on each leg, and then I jog for 5ish minutes. I also sometimes throw in the walking knee pull. (Here’s a great warm-up from Lauren Fleshman.)

Okay, here’s the 20-minute sprint workout:

Sprint for 20 seconds, then walk slowly for till your heart rate slows, then sprint for 30 seconds, walk till your heart rate slows again, then sprint for 40 seconds, walk, then sprint for 60 seconds. Do that for as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes. Boom done. Love it.

I usually do this on the treadmill, but I think it would be even better outside.

Note: Make sure you are walking slowly between sprints and letting your heart rate come back to normal before you start sprinting again. This fast-slow thing is what makes it work. Read more about rest-based training here.

3. I want to build a lean body.

I’ve been working toward this for a while. I get close, and then I go and do something stupid like sign up for a marathon. Distance running and my body don’t get along. In fact, I think I might be allergic to it. I get super puffy. (Also, thinking about it, I think a marathon is almost as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. And I have enough mental challenges thankyouverymuch.)

Since I’ve stopped doing so much running, I’ve actually felt better physically…and mentally! I enjoy lifting weights, and I already know that it will help me get lean and strong.

If you’re interested in some great weights workouts, check out Jen Sinkler and Lift Weights Faster. (Sort of weights and cardio in one.) Here’s a sample LWF workout from Jen Sinkler.

Now that I’m free from “training,” I just get my daily workout in. This week I did the sprint intervals and a couple of quick 10-minute bodyweight workouts—one of them included pushups with a 15-pound puppy draping herself across my neck.

Why I Quit Using a Training Plan | Mom vs. Marathon
This is sleepy Chloe 10 days ago, just a couple of days after we brought her home.

Oh yeah. We got a puppy. I’d put that down as number 4 on this list, but that’d be making excuses. EVERYONE has time for a workout. Even 10 minutes with a puppy biting your ear is better than nothing! And you won’t find that in a training plan.