Week 9: Cape Town Marathon Derailed

Penelope Cairns |

On Monday evening, while sipping on a glass of birthday champagne, I noticed my throat was a little scratchy. I brushed it off as ‘just allergies’, which usually plague me at this time of the year, with all the spring flowers in full bloom.


I’ve been dodging the new-season coughs and splutters that have been floating around the office over the last few weeks like a champion – and I still remarked to a colleague on Friday that I’d somehow miraculously dodged the ‘cold and flu’ bullet.

Fast forward three days, and I’m writing this blog from the confines of my bed, having made my way through nearly two boxes of tissues already. This is not the fake sniffles usually symptomatic of pre-race OCD runners. This lurgie has got me good and proper, and my Sanlam Cape Town Marathon aspirations for this coming weekend are being derailed by genuine flu.

There’s a very simple way, using your HR monitor, to check if your body is about to get sick or already fighting an infection (or if you’re over-training). First thing in the morning, when you wake up – before getting up and moving around – check your resting heart rate, to see if it’s elevated above your normal resting heart rate.

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The best way to do this: while lying down, put your heart-rate monitor strap on; and then, with your watch, set a three-minute time lap. Each watch is different, but with the Polar M400 you can take the Fitness Test, which tracks the three minutes for you and gives you a V02max result. I set myself this task both yesterday morning and this morning as I opened my eyes, and the results were interesting.


Yesterday morning, after a three-minute resting heart rate test, my HR settled at about 58bpm. This morning – after taking precisely the same test – my HR is 83bpm. A 25bpm difference! I can’t overlook that result. Something is definitely amiss with my body, and I need to take in the warning signs my heart rate is giving me, and sit back and relax.IMG_5973

In all honesty, I don’t think I will be able to make the start line come Sunday. The risk would not be worth the reward, even if I am feeling better by this weekend. Like I have preached in most of my other blogs up until now, recovery is key! So for anyone else who has cold and flu symptoms that have crept up on you this week, don’t take the chance. There are many other race kilometres to be run.

Alana Doyle is a committed trail and road runner and has completed events like the famed 160km UTMB (Ultra Trail Mont Blanc) run in France. This year her target events include the Hout Bay Challenge Trail Run and the Sanlam Cape Town marathon.

Follow Alana’s running journey here:

Week 1: Running Hard Is Easy

Week 2: My First Win… But at What Cost?

Week 3: When The Heart Says Go, But The Body Says No

Week 4: Life’s Curveballs

Week 5: The Race of your Life

Week 6: When The Heart Falls In Line

Week 7: A Little More Self-Control, Please!

Week 8: Rest But No Rest

Learn more from Polar about Top Marathon Mistakes To Avoid.


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