Since running in the New York marathon in 2015 it’s been amazing the amount of people with lung disease who have contacted me about their own running ambitions. From awareness walks to running full marathons. Seems like patients want to chase the dreams they previously thought were out of their reach. While it’s fantastic patients have these ambitions the fact is it takes time and dedication. So I thought I’d give you all a quick 101 on event running for people with lung disease.

The mind

Whether you’re preparing for a short event or a marathon the first and most important rule is making sure you’re in the right head space. Most of you would know that just walking up stairs can take your breath away so be prepared that you will experience quite a lot of this. Not that being breathless while training is necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are training within your limits.

Some tipsI share with people before they start training is to focus on why you’re doing this and what is your end goal. Having this point of focus firmly planted in your mind will be the reason you keep training and what will keep you in the game on race day. A healthy athlete will have to deal with muscle fatigue, cramping and other injuries. We as respiratory patients have to deal with these problems plus the fact we have a severe breathing impairment. If you are having second thoughts already then you’ll have to work on your mind.

Your doctor

Once you have decided on the event you will target you’ll have to work out a training plan. The first step in designing a training plan is consulting your doctor to work out your exercise limits and whether you’ll be able to do the training required. Before my first event my doctor sent me off to have exercise stress testing so he could figure out what my limitations were. To be able to have effective training sessions you need to know how much you can safely push yourself. In my case my doctor’s main instruction was to not raise my heart rate over 150 bph. My exercise testing had shown my oxygen saturation levels started to drop at this point.

If you have a doctor who is happy to design a program with your trainer then you will be in a strong position to reach your goal. It’s also a good idea to keep your doctor updated with your progress so they can make any adjustments or recommendations along the way. Remember a good doctor will encourage you to be active and achieve your goals.


This will vary between patients and their particular needs such as their oxygen requirements. I have run and cycled with the Philips SimplyGo mini backpack oxygen concentrator and found it pretty comfortable, of course this will only be useful if you can get by with just a portable oxygen concentrator. My must have pieces of equipment are my Garmin 920xt which measures my heart rate, distance, pace and stride. This is a little overkill as I’m a statics man, a simple heart rate monitor will do the trick. A Pulse oximeter is also crucial as this will let you know if your oxygen levels are dropping while you’re training.

Good quality runners are so important not only so you’re comfortable but to limit your exposure to injury. If the budget allows then spend a few extra dollars on comfortable running clothes. Being comfortable while training and racing will make the experience more enjoyable. I’m also a big fan of quality running socks that combine comfort and have the ability to take moisture away from your feet to avoid blisters.

I’ve previously written about SKINS clothing and would highly recommend the A400 shorts and top. While some patients are put off with the whole compression idea, especially on their chest, I personally found it didn’t make me feel constricted and aided in opening up my chest.

Training program

First of all, if you are a respiratory patient planning to run a marathon be prepared for many months of hard work. I would strongly suggest you start with a shorter race and build up to the marathon distance. Finishing the race is one thing, finishing without putting yourself at risk is the priority. Building an endurance body takes time.

Having a trainer or coach who can design you a training program in conjunction with your doctor is best practice. Training programs can differ in many ways depending on what your goal is. A training program for a five kilometre walk/run will differ greatly from a marathon program. Work out the pace you’d like to archive and discuss this with your trainer. Remember your pace is yours and you can determine what that is, of course you will have to keep in mind any cutoff time imposed by race organisers, these are normally found in the race conditions.

It’s important to give yourself recovery periods during your training program as you will be asking a lot of your body and mind, recovery is a critical part of training. Your trainer will build in rest days to your program if you are feeling it’s not enough as you move through the program then make sure you make your trainer aware. Most trainers will appreciate feed back as they have a vested interest in you achieving your goal.

My marathon program is 26 weeks in length which many of you will think is a long, long time. Truth is, it is a long time, but for my goals and what I want to archive out of a race I need 26 weeks. Currently I’m training for an upcoming triathlon which will be a 10 week training program but come October 30th I will commence my 26 week program into the 2017 London marathon.

Remember you’re starting point is the level of fitness you have before you commence training, this will determine how easily you adapt to your training program. If running events is your chosen goal, then look at it as a lifestyle change and allow your body to adjust. Running is the hardest activity for a respiratory patient to take up but what I’ve learned is running is the most beneficial to my respiratory system.

Set your goals, prepare well, race well and be proud of what you achieve!

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One response to “So you want to run a marathon?

  1. This post is very informative. Giving young athletes all the tips they need on their journey as an athlete. Just remember before choosing this path you need to condition your body and mind. So that you won’t have to worry being on the last place on your first marathon. Try to consider applying these tips, because this will help you enhance your capabilities as a runner.

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