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Race Week Syndrome: Know the Facts

by Amy L. Marxkors

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Welcome to WebMD Symptom Checker! 

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Please answer a few questions before we get started!

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A dropdown box appears on the screen.

I am checking symptoms for (me) or (someone else).

Uh…

I click (someone else)

What is the gender of (someone else)? 

Female.

What is the age of (someone else)? 

30-35. 

Yes, (someone else) just happens to fall into my same gender and age categories. Conveniently enough.

What is your medical/health question?

A blank box stares at me, its blinking cursor daring me to type. Finally, I do.

“What is Race Week Syndrome?” 

I click submit and quickly open another browser, pre-loaded to the Wall Street Journal website, and glance around, just in case any snooping eyes happen upon my computer screen. Lucky for me, I am the only one at the kitchen table. I tab back to WebMD.

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:

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: 

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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