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How to Run a Race with Asthma

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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 with it.

As someone who’s never going to be an Olympian but still wants to enjoy the buzz of a race, I have a few tips for other people with asthma who might be looking to claim their own piece of medal bling.

Five top tips for racing with asthma

Always carry your inhaler

If you have friends or family spectating at your event, you can always ask them to look after your inhaler for you if you don’t have any pockets or a running belt (particularly if the course means you are likely to see them several times). However, if possible I would always recommend carrying your inhaler with you, just in case you need it quickly.

Dress for the occasion

The unpredictable British weather can make it pretty difficult to know what to wear when you go for a run, but 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. Lots of races will take discarded clothing and donate it to charity too – so it’s a win-win situation!

Manage your expectations

Running with asthma can be a challenge, so you should be proud of the fact that you’re getting out there! If you feel like you’re having an off day, then 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 truly struggling with asthma symptoms that day, you shouldn’t force yourself to run at all. 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. For me, this involves admiring the beautiful surroundings, enjoying the feeling of freedom on the downhills, and smiling at spectators and hugging my family every time I pass them. After the race, give yourself a pat on the back for finishing, or completing a certain distance, or even just 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 then you may need to seek medical help. However, while I am sometimes a little wheezy for a short while after I’ve finished 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.

UK/MED/19/0210 September 2019