“Asthmatic runners are like stammerers who sing”

Winter has finally arrived in Sweden. Actually, it’s been here for about a week. Having been home in Scotland for a couple of weeks where temperatures seldom dropped below +5 c, the prospect of a run at -5 c in the snow did not seem too appealing. Why? Well the asthma of course! The last few nights have been restless and the breathing deteriorating steadily. It came to a head today on only my frst morning back in Stockholm. The shock of the icy chill outdoors as I made my way across Stockholm last night was matched only by the dry and oppressive heat in the flat. Swedes keep their flats ridiculously warm (or Scots keep theirs more comfortably cool?). In combination these factors set my lungs ablaze as I woke out of a deep sleep to a pretty brutal wheezing attack. So a combination of not enough sleep, coupled with sitting on the end of the bed pulling hard to get the air in and generally feeling disgruntled – that was my start to the day. These episodes always drain me and I thought about scrubbing the run scheduled for this morning. I sat, drinking coffee, looking at the snow falling outside and waiting for the tiredness in my chest muscles to move on and the pain in my shoulders to go away. Being an asthmatic runner can be tough.

By lunchtime I felt strong enough to contemplate a small joggette: 3 miles (5km) maybe? – just to see if I could get into the winter running again (we’d had a week of sub-zero in early December). So on with the running gear (& the spikes).


After last year’s fall on the ice which saw me destroy my inhaler (see above) as my full weight landed on it (and my coccyx), the spikes have become a permanent feature of my winter running.


To my surprise and delight, I eased into what turned out to be a very pleasant ciruit of Nacka Nature Reserve. It’s a familiar location to me and one which allows for a variety of distances depending where you want to exit. I couldn’t believe the difference from this morning when for over an hour I was trying to get my breathing in check. There I was, on the run which proved to be painless and easy. I suddenly realised I was nearly seven miles in and feeling good. I wanted to push on for more. Just before Christmas a friend had said to me “You asthmatic runners are like stammerers who sing!”. I decided I liked today’s song so much I pressed on over the undulating ground and finished with a nice distance of 21km exactly (Garmin Stats Here) – a sub two hour, sub-zero impromptu half marathon. That will do nicely.

Of course, as I’d not set out to go so far, I’d not eaten lunch, so I did a blood test (it’s a diabetic thing) and was pleased to see my BGL was sitting at 6.2. Given that I ran nearly three hours after having breakfast and had not taken any carbs onboard, I was surprised both at the level and how good I was feeling. Clearly the porridge had set me up perfectly (and hopefully may serve as a lesson to those T2 diabetics that overfuel on their running). This has been a great end to what has proved to be a cracking start to the running year.

The year so far

About Tentsmuir

Steve Murdoch is a mid-50 something ex-ultrarunner/ cyclist with Asthma and Diabetes. He is often to be found going round in circles in the Tentsmuir Forest trying to make sense of the contradictions in history, Buddhist philosophy and Scottish malt whisky. Also to be found stravaiging in the Scottish mountains, in deep jungles or lurking on Twitter @Tentsmuir
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17 Responses to “Asthmatic runners are like stammerers who sing”

  1. kcg1974 says:

    I know of what you speak. My youngest son lives with this. Not easy, often unexpected. Hang in there. My blessings to you.

    • Tentsmuir says:

      Thank you very much. I hope your son gains control of his asthma. Although I am 50 very soon, mine has stayed with me all my life. But as you’ve read, it does not get in the way of my life. If anything it has pushed me to more challenges. Thanks again for your kindness πŸ™‚

  2. Ba says:

    I do enjoy your ramblings. We can all appreciate your comments from your runs or ‘jogettes’. You’ve got to have a hellish amount of determination to do what you do, hope we meet again Prof. You are a top bloke…..might let you pass me at the end of a race!

  3. Ruaca says:

    I have asthma as well. I can usually keep it in check unless I am around perfumes, which at the gym seems to happen all too often. I have a terrible time breathing around perfume, but other than that I can usually run fine. Although, I only do 5-6 miles! I will let you know once I reach 13.1 ! πŸ™‚

    • Tentsmuir says:

      Stick at it and you will get there. 10 years ago I swore I’d never run outside. Not been to the gym in years. Funny how we change. I’ll follow your progress with interest πŸ™‚

      • Ruaca says:

        Thank you. I swore I would never run outside too! Now, I love it. I only use the gym for my cross training now. But, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, running outside is never boring and weather is always beautiful. We are so lucky!

    • Tentsmuir says:

      Looking forward to reading the race report when you do that half mara. Breathe strong and never give up πŸ™‚

  4. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I’d be doing some of the things I have done with asthma I’d have laughed at them.

    Moving forward to now and I’m on the back of having finished numerous 10k’s and Half Marathons, various stupid extreme challenges and a marathon.

    It’s achieveable as long as you train smart and listen to your body.

    Hats off to you for cracking on with both asthma and diabetes…you can’t keep a good man down.

    • Tentsmuir says:

      Very kind words indeed. I honestly believe that without these conditions (though I loathe them), I’d never have pushed so hard in the running / mountaineering. Hope you are going to keep at it too and I look forward to following your blog. πŸ™‚

  5. SoWhatIRun says:

    I feel your pain. Running with asthma sucks especially in the winter. Nice job on smashing your inhaler! Never seen anything like it. Ha!

    • Tentsmuir says:

      Haha. Thanks. And if you look closely, even the metal canister is dented! Suffice to say the swelling was about the size of a tennis ball by the end of the day, though bizarrely it had no major impact on my running. But at the time words with a similar meaning to “gosh, that nipped a bit!” did loudly echo round the forest (although not those exact words, naturally). Thanks for getting in touch and keep on running πŸ™‚

  6. marob23 says:

    How nice to just sneak in a half marathon and in the snow. In my head that is how I imagined my running life ( with or without snow ) , but usually I am slotting a run in around lots of other stuff. Sometimes when I have finished a longish run ( 6 miles plus ) and legs feel fresh I wonder what it would be like to keep going, maybe I will give it a try one day. Right now don’t think I would be up to running for 21k, off the cuff but it’s a nice thought.

    • Tentsmuir says:

      I confess when I started about 10 years ago, the though of running 20 minutes terrified me. But the more consistantly I’ve done it the easier it has become even after a really crap night of it. And I think running in the really cold weather as opposed to the Scottish damp weather helps a lot. When I come back to Scotland in June I am really going to miss these runs, especially the night runs in the forest only lit up by the snow and the moonlight. Set that target, the step up to half mara is not so tough, indeed the hard work is simply getting outside. Keep at it πŸ™‚

      • marob23 says:

        Thank you. Finding time for longer runs & proper training can be tricky. Inverness not my first half marathon but I would like to enjoy it more than other times !

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