Running a marathon with the Norovirus (Gastric flu) – a step-by-step guide

1st Step – DO Get the norovirus (gastric flu)

The best way is to overtrain until there is absolutely nothing left of your immune system.  I will explain the secrets to “The art of overtraining”  in my next blog.  After you have reduced your immune system to dust, hang out late in bars with people that have recently been violently ill with the Norovirus.  If you can, forget which glass is which.  Share fluids as much as  possible.

2nd Step – Ignore the symptoms for as long as possible

Sure, you are tapering and are supposed to feel fantastic.  Instead you feel nauseous every minute of every day and everyone comments on how pale you look.  Sometimes kids see your white face and just burst into tears.  Sure, you look and feel like s*** every single moment of every day, but that is a hole that is nicely filled with a concept known as “denial”.  After all, what would Steve Waugh do?  He would bat through the pain.


What would Steve Waugh do? He would bat through the pain.

3rd Step – Get some professional medical advice.  And then ignore it…

When I asked the doctor whether I should still run the marathon he gave a little incredulous laugh.  And said:

“No.  Are you crazy?”

My feeling is that all general practitioners of medicine are fat smokers.  In lieu of this I decided to ignore the fat smoker’s “advice”.  After all, those weird medical buzzwords like “diarrhea”, “vomiting”, “abdominal pain” and “cramping” are all really confusing and hard to understand. Verdict: run anyway.  After all, what can go wrong in 3 hours of prolonged, hardcore strenuous activity that pushes the body to the limits?  I’ve knocked out viruses on my computer in minutes.

“My feeling is that all general practitioners of medicine are fat smokers”

4th Step – Throw in some random combinations of medication

When you are sitting in a portaloo,  feeling like Sigourney Weaver in alien, and taking a combination of a maltodextrin energy bars, 2 different types of gastric medication, 2 Imodiums and lucozade; there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours.  My tip is to push that feeling to the back of your mind.  Of course your stomach sounds like someone is inside pouring water from one glass to another and swirling like a whirlpool and your colon is twitching like a pink rabbit nostril.  It is just pre-race nerves. Ignore it and prepare to run for 3 hours with limited toilet facilities.

there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours

there is always a part of you that accepts that something might go wrong in the next few hours

5th Step – Persist with your gameplan even when it is obviously not going to work

Should I adjust my gameplan to counter the fact that I have gastric flu?  Yeah sure.  Instead of:

– run the first 20 miles @ 6:45 and hang in there

I’ll be swapping over to:

– run as many miles @ 6:45 as you can and try and cross the line before you blackout.

Safety first.

6th Step – Give up.  Then realise you can’t because you have not plan B

I actually stopped at 15 miles in the race.  I tore my number off and prepared to exit the race.  All the French supporters (Paris Marathon) said:

French Supporter: “Monsieur!  You cannot give up! You can do it”

Me: (shakes head)

French Supporter:“Monsieur!  This is your running moment!  You will run the beautiful race!  You must not let anything stop you!”

Me: (Projectile vomits on the pavement next to supporter.  Drops to knees. Projectile vomits again). Where is the nearest Portaloo?

French Supporter: “You need to go to a hospital. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

The problem with having no Plan B is that when you emerge from the Portaloo clutching your vomit and poo-covered number in the middle of Paris with no phone, no map and no travelcard, you pretty much have no option but to rejoin the race.  Which I did. Hey, only 11 miles to go!


Plan B didn’t make it on the day

7th Step – Cross the finish line.  Then strap in for 2 weeks of violent vomiting, diarrhea and flu-like symptoms.  You’ve earned it. 

There is a lot of talk in marathons of fuelling strategy.  Mine was roughly to:
– Not carb-load because I have a gastric illness
– Throw up what small amount of food and water I manage to hold down halfway through the race. Including medication that is keeping my illness and bowels in check.
– Throw in a bit of diarrhea to assist with hydration
– Run the rest of the race in this state

I don’t remember so much of the last 6 miles.  I remember it being touch and go about blacking out in the last half mile.  I was lucky and it actually wasn’t until 5 days later that the Norovirus finally kicked in and completely destroyed me.

You’d think an experience like that would put me off running.  It hasn’t.  It has, however put me off running marathons for a few years.  I’ll be back one day though…

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3 Responses to Running a marathon with the Norovirus (Gastric flu) – a step-by-step guide

  1. leegamble says:

    So you got 3:01? 🙂

  2. Pingback: The different types of runner – part 3 | Boy on the run

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