Just Breathe

When I first started running, I got side stitches all the time. Invariably, I would end up with horrible pain under my ribcage before I hit the one-mile mark.

With time and patience, however, I started getting stitches less and less. Nowadays the only time I have this issue is if I eat too soon before running.

But in the past week or so, I have been getting stitches on every run. Even my easy, short runs have been painful. With each run, my panic grew: if I couldn’t run a slow 4mi comfortably, how would I ever run 26.2?

For days, I tried to pinpoint what the problem was. I kept track of what I was eating, made sure I was hydrated, ran slower…nothing made a difference.

On my easy run today, I made it to mile two before my side started to ache. Now, on a typical run, I listen to music. Today, it was raining really hard, so I left my electronics at home. In the end, it was running without headphones that led me to the root of the problem.

As I ran, I realized that my breathing sounded really weird (something I can’t generally hear over my music). And then it dawned on me – I was breathing through my mouth! This might not sound like a big deal, and for some people mouth breathing works, but for me it is really uncomfortable.

This past week, however, I have been fighting a cold and thus unable to breathe through my stuffy nose. My breathing has been strained and shallow, which is apparently a common cause of side stitches. I didn’t even realize I was breathing through my mouth, because it was the only way I could get air in!

As soon as I realized this, I knew it was the problem. Luckily I was much less stuffy today. I immediately focused on breathing like I normally do while running: slow and steady through my nose. Within about 3 minutes, the pain was gone and I was fine for the rest of the run.

It’s amazing how such a small change can make such a big difference!


2 thoughts on “Just Breathe

  1. Hey, I just stumbled across your site. I completed my second marathon about a month ago (Portland, OR). A couple weeks before the race I started having some nagging issues within the last couple weeks. It’s disconcerting to struggle with making it through 4-5 miles just days before your marathon! Anyway, long story short I never pushed myself, trusted in the training, kept to my tapering, and had no real issues for the marathon.
    I’m sure you’ll do great (especially now that you are breathing!). Just trust your training and have fun!

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