It began on December 24th. I had just arrived in Matamoros, Mexico the day before, to spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with my love. I woke up Christmas Eve morning with a dry tickle at the base of my throat, just annoying enough to cause me to cough every couple of hours. With no other symptoms, I didn’t think much of it. I hadn’t been sick in nearly two years and after all, I had gotten my flu shot back in October. Isn’t that supposed to make you invincible?

It was warm and humid in Matamoros – a nice break from the dry cold of Iowa, and I was looking forward to getting some good runs in. Little did I know what that dry tickle would become… and that I would be writing about it nearly a full month later, pausing in my typing to cough and steady my breathing.

As the days went on during my visit to Matamoros, my cough became increasingly more annoying, and  I sensed some congestion, but it was very minimal. We celebrated Christmas with a quiet day of movie-watching and snacking, and got out for a five mile run in the sun the next day. After we finished, I coughed. And it was irritating. We went out to a local bar with some acquaintances a few nights later and it was very smoky, which only made it worse. By New Year’s, my cough was in full force, my nose running, and my ears plugged up. Still, I felt relatively fine. If only I could stop coughing.

I returned to Iowa on New Year’s Day, wincing in pain during take-off and landing as my ears felt like they were about to explode. Or is it implode? Either way, it wasn’t pleasant. It took a couple of days for my ears to clear, and by Friday, having consumed nearly two full bottles of over-the-counter cough syrup, I was sitting in the walk-in clinic trying to convince the physician’s assistant to give me just the cough syrup with codeine and the antihistamine rather than an antibiotic. I hate antibiotics and wanted to avoid them if at all possible. He diagnosed me with acute upper respiratory infection and had, to my relief, ruled out pneumonia.

Still, my cough persisted. The codeine made me sleepy, but otherwise I noticed no change. Despite protests from caring friends, I continued to run. I had missed two long runs already and had fallen behind in my training. Ironically, the only time I didn’t seem to cough was while running. But the second I stopped, I experienced an intense coughing fit of about ten minutes that left me sweaty and breathless… far more taxing than the run itself. I hated it, but it was worth it if it meant I could get my run in.

A week later, following several sleepless nights, I had successfully emptied the bottle of cough syrup and made my ribcage so sore it hurt to breathe. Yet the cough remained. I went back to the clinic and reluctantly took the prescription for a ten day course of antibiotics, as well as an inhaler that was supposed to open up my airways, making it easier to breathe.

The inhaler did little to help; in fact, it seemed to increase my coughing frequency. I finished the last dose of the antibiotics yesterday. In the same night, I also had what was possibly the worst coughing fit yet, bringing up almost all of my dinner with it. In addition, I now find myself covered in a miserable, itchy, splotchy rash which may or may not be related to anything else. All I know is that I feel terribly uncomfortable.

Thanks to the kindness of a good friend, I made a third trip to the clinic this morning and left with three more prescriptions, including a Z-Pack for the cough, Prednizone for the rash, Zyrtec for the itching, and worst of all, no stress on my lungs, including running and especially not in the cold, for the next week. The nurse practitioner informed me that my lungs are very irritated and need to calm down.

And now, 29 days after I felt that first dry tickle, I sit on the couch with my fuzzy little puppy curled up next to me, allowing my lungs to heal and my rash to stop itching. I am wondering how best to modify my training to run a decent marathon in Corpus Christi next month. My longest run to date during this training cycle has been 12 miles, and I feel I can effectively let go of any possibility of a Boston qualifier or a personal best at this point. And that’s not me being pessimistic; it’s my reality and knowing that if I don’t get better soon, I may not be running a marathon at all.

Assuming I can resume training in a week, I’ll have exactly eight weeks until the marathon. It’s enough time to get in a couple of long runs and to finish a marathon, but probably not enough to run an 8:15 average mile for 26 miles. And I’m OK with that. As experience has shown me, sometimes those races that we run “just for fun” turn out to be the best ones. This particular marathon already has the distinction of being the first I will run with my favorite person. That alone will make it one of the best!

Thank you for reading!

One thought on “Cough

  1. Oh man, I'm sorry to hear about the cough… I too was sick recently and ended up rashy and allergic to medicine that has been prescribed to me for years so I completely understand what you are dealing with… Take care, rest up and get better!


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