Image Credit: Getty Images / lovro77
Woman with asthma running race with other athletes confident her asthma is under control

How to Run a Race with Asthma

Reading time | 2 mins
Beki Tovey knows she probably won’t be an Olympian, but she’ll never let asthma get in the way of being active.


Living with asthma doesn't necessarily have to stop you from being active or even competing at the highest level. Did you know that 25% of the 2012 Team GB athletics squad was diagnosed with asthma? Or that marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe has lived with the condition since her early teens?

Once under control, asthma can be a manageable condition, and running can absolutely be something you can enjoy.

I realized a while ago that I'm never going to be an Olympian, but I sure have a taste for gold medals and other winner’s bling. Here are a few tips to get you started if you're the same as me.

Five top tips for racing with asthma

Bring any asthma medication prescribed by your doctor

Don't have any pockets or a suitable running belt? Ask a family member to look after your medication while spectating your event. This works particularly well if the track means you'll see said family member several times.

However, when possible, I would always recommend carrying your medication with you, just in case you need it quickly. Running belts can be awkward, especially when you need to feel streamlined for a race. But always better safe than sorry!

Dress for the occasion

The unpredictable British weather can make it tricky to know what to wear when you go for a run. Still, I would always suggest wearing multiple layers. The early morning of the race day might be a little chilly, so any extra warmth will avoid potential breathing issues in the cold. You can then remove layers as you warm up.

If you happen to lose your top layer, don't worry too much. Many races will take discarded clothing and donate it to charity – so it's a win-win situation.

Manage your expectations

Running with asthma can be a challenge, so you should be proud you’re getting out there! If you feel like you're having an off day, cut yourself some slack. Appreciate that you might not be busting out a personal best and focus on (safely) finishing the race.

If I need to catch my breath, I often walk up the hills and run the rest. Although if you are genuinely struggling with asthma symptoms that day, you shouldn't force yourself to run. A race should never be completed at the expense of your health.

Focus on the positives

If the race isn't going the way you want it to, or if you find yourself struggling, try to focus on the positive aspects of what you are achieving. This involves admiring the beautiful surroundings, enjoying the feeling of freedom on the downhills, smiling at spectators, and hugging my family every time I pass them.

After the race, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing, completing a certain distance, or even making it out of bed to race when lots of people wouldn't have! 

Recover well

If your asthma isn't under control after the race, you may need medical help. However, while I am sometimes a little wheezy for a short while after finishing a race, this often goes away after I've had a warm shower and a cup of tea.

After you've crossed the finish line, focus on keeping your breathing deep and slow and lowering your heart rate. Try to put on some extra layers to keep your chest and lungs warm as your body cools down.

NPS-IE-NP-00389 May 2022