Race Week Syndrome: Know the Facts

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“What is Race Week Syndrome?” 

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What is Race Week Syndrome? 

Race Week Syndrome“Race Week Syndrome—often mistaken for a cold, cough, flu, strep throat, bronchitis, arthritis, food poisoning, heartburn, plantar fasciitis, muscle tears, sprains, broken bones, IT Band Syndrome, swimmer’s ear, Achilles tendonitis, Restless Leg Syndrome, botulism, Armageddon, and other common conditions—is an overall feeling of regret, panic, and hypochondria, along with the abrupt and continuing emergence of physical ailments. Symptoms of Race Week Syndrome usually appear within 7 days of a race and disappear immediately upon crossing the start line.”

What causes Race Week Syndrome?

“Race Week Syndrome is caused by signing up for a race, whether online or at another race expo, though symptoms of Race Week Syndrome may remain dormant for weeks or even months. Symptoms generally appear 7 days before a race, though in some rare instances, they appear significantly later, even up to the night before the race itself. You can catch Race Week Syndrome by registering for a race of any distance, though studies have shown the symptoms of Race Week Syndrome tend to increase in severity as the race distance increases.

What are the symptoms of Race Week Syndrome? 

“Symptoms of Race Week Syndrome vary greatly with each individual. However, common symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue/Lethargy
  • Restlessness
  • A general, pervasive feeling that you are getting sick
  • Uncontrollable sobbing
  • Deep feelings of regret
  • No actual weight gain but the perception of weight gain
  • No actual loss of fitness but the perception of a loss of fitness
  • No actual full body aches and pains but the perception of full body aches and pains
  • The fear that everyone at the race will be fitter than you are
  • The desire to buy new running shorts
  • The desire to buy new running shoes
  • The desire to try out those weird massage things at the race expo
  • The desire to completely change your eating habits days before the race
  • The firm belief that you have a stress fracture in any bone from the femur down" 

What are the long-term effects of Race Week Syndrome?

“There are no long-term effects of Race Week Syndrome. The condition is often forgotten the moment symptoms disappear and, generally, not remembered until a future case of Race Week Syndrome. However, recurrence can compound deep feelings of regret [see Symptoms].”

Am I at risk for Race Week Syndrome?

“If you are currently signed up for a race, you are at risk for Race Week Syndrome. If you are within two weeks of your race, you are considered high-risk and should take appropriate precautions.”

Do I have Race Week Syndrome?

“First, ask yourself several questions to ascertain whether or not you are exhibiting signs of Race Week Syndrome: 

Am I signed up for a race? (If you answer ‘no’ to this question, stop reading. If you answer 'yes,' continue with the questionnaire.)

Do I want to buy new shoes or shorts?

Did I purchase unnecessary amounts of GU and race nutritionals?

Have I recently scheduled massages before and after my race?

Do I have expo anxiety (locations, times, t-shirt won’t fit, etc.)?

Do I think I suddenly have pneumonia?

Do I think I need a hip replacement?

Are my knees exploding?

Do I think that my throat [gag] is [cough] feeling [gag] scratchy [cough] or [gag] sore?

If I suspect someone to have a cold or even allergies, am I treating them as though they have the plague?

Am I experiencing anxiety about the post-race email from MarathonFoto?

If you answered ‘yes’ to 2 or more of these questions, you may have Race Week Syndrome.” 

What do I do if I think I have Race Week Syndrome?

“If you have Race Week Syndrome, nothing we can say here will help you. You are a hopeless cause at this point. But don’t worry about it. Everyone else who will be at your race is suffering from Race Week Syndrome, too. Just remember these tips on race day: 

  • Do not try anything new on race day, or for that matter, race week.
  • Trust your training. You are ready for this. Your body is capable. You will be fine.
  • Nothing goes wrong on race day. Everything just adds to the story.
  • Be gutsy.
  • Be smart.
  • Know that you will hurt. Races are supposed to hurt. That’s okay. Heck, it’s more than okay. It’s what makes racing, racing.
  • Don’t do anything dumb.
  • If you do something dumb, don’t worry about.
  • Race hard.
  • Have fun.

Thank you for using WebMD Symptom Checker, and good luck in your race! 

Amy L. Marxkors

Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story.  Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.

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