4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

My Bout with Shingles

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It started with a tingling feeling in my back, exploded into a very uncomfortable rash, and then slowly got better after a few weeks.  The ‘it’ was Shingles, and wow it was rough.  Shingles is a re-emergence of chicken pox, caused by stress.  You can only get shingles if you have already had chicken pox, and while contagious, you can only pass the chicken pox to others that have not had it before or have not been vaccinated, but you cannot pass shingles itself.

Here’s a description of how it went down for me.

First symptoms

At the end of May, over Memorial Day weekend, I took a business trip to Nairobi, Kenya.  Very exciting trip to take, but a long way from home.  Was certainly quite stressed out about work, about leaving my family for a week, and the long trip is a stress on the body also.  Left on Saturday night, flew to Amsterdam and continued onto Nairobi.  In all more than a 25 hour door to door trip.  I expected to be a bit jet-lagged and to take a couple of days to get over it.  On Monday evening, I ran on the treadmill in the hotel gym.  With a 20 minute limit, I could only run a little more than 2 miles, and felt fine.  On Tuesday morning, went to treadmill again, and was able to get 40 minutes in.  However, when I came off the treadmill, I felt incredibly dizzy and run down.  I attributed it to the 6000 feet of altitude where Nairobi is located and didn’t think much of it.  That day was a Kenyan holiday and I was off from work.  Spent the day napping and just feeling out of it.  I think it was after that when I noticed I felt a bit tingly in my back.  It is similar to the feeling I get when I am about to get sick with a fever.  Tried to make sure I got lots of sleep the rest of the week, and did not run any more.

In the next couple of days, I didn’t feel any more sick, but that tingly feeling remained.  Thursday night I headed home, another very long trip, through Dubai, and arrived in New York Friday morning.  I was not feeling sick at all, but still had that tingly feeling in my back.  I just figured it was due to the long travel and jet lag, and my wife and I headed out for a weekend we had planned in Middlebury Vt.  Drove up to Vermont on Friday.  On Friday night, I first noticed a rash forming on my chest.

The next day, the rash seemed worse, but I went out on a bike ride that I had planned, and felt very fatigued.


It was after the disappointing bike ride that I started to research what the problem might be.  It didn’t take long, after some searching on the internet, to start seeing references to shingles.  After looking at pictures of people with shingles, and looking at my rash, I was reasonably sure that is what I had.  At that time, it was not painful, and not even uncomfortable.  The rash was just forming, but was not inhibiting me in any way.  The telltale sign was that the rash was only on my right side and in a band from my chest around to my back.  After some more research, I found that it was important to get a diagnosis from your doctor within 48 hours of the start of the rash, to start antiviral medication that helps to limit the severity of the rash.  Since I was far from home, and would not be able to see my doctor for another 2 days, I decided to go to the emergency room in Middlebury.  This was actually a pleasant experience, and we were in and out in no time, with some medication and prescription to be filled.  From that point, just watched the rash get worse and worse and started to feel very uncomfortable.


The most interesting thing about my shingles was that I was not ever in a lot of pain.  I was in some pain and I was very uncomfortable, especially when wearing a shirt, but it was not the kind of pain you hear people talk about that have had shingles before.  I stayed home from work on Monday and Tuesday.  On Tuesday, I was able to get in to see my doctor, and she was amazed that I was not in more pain, based on how I looked, and attributed it to my active lifestyle!  I was signed up for a triathlon that coming Sunday morning, and my doctor strongly advised me not to run it.  She said that I could start exercising again once the rash started healing over.

By Wednesday, there was definitely some healing in the rash, but it had a long way to go.  Since it was all covered by my clothing, and I was not in a lot of pain, I decided to go back to work.  At that point, I was just hoping for enough healing for me to race in the triathlon on Sunday.  As each day went by, the rash was a little better, but I had a couple of big ones on my side and back and those continued to hurt and feel bad when wearing clothing.  When Sunday came around, I skipped the race simply because the rash was not healed yet and I was afraid the wetsuit and the 2 hours of sweating would set it back.  So continued to rest.

Besides the pain and the uncomfortableness of the rash itself, the biggest issue for me was the medication.  It really did a number on my stomach, and the entire week I took the medication I had severe stomach issues.  Each day was a struggle.

Finally, on Sunday I stopped the medication and my stomach started getting back to normal, and by the following Wednesday, I felt that there was enough healing in the rash that I could go for a run.  While I was still uncomfortable while wearing a shirt, I found that I felt perfectly fine running!  That first day, I just ran a rough 4 miler, but I continued to run every single day, in fact for 15 days straight!

It probably took another week for the rash to completely heal to the point where I didn’t feel any pain or uncomfortableness anymore.  For several weeks afterwards the rash was still visible on my body, and now, almost 2 months later, has about completely faded away.  In all, it was about 3-4 days before the rash formed, almost 2 weeks for the rash to heal, and then another week until I felt all better again.

While this was a rough thing to go through, I am very thankful it was not as bad for me as it could have been.  I’ve also learned a lot of about this disease, and found that it is common in older people, where it can be debilitating.  In fact, there is vaccination available that is more commonly given people over 60.  While I’ve been told it is rare for the same person to get shingles twice, I’ve anecdotally heard that it is in fact possible.  At least now I’m aware of the warning signs and perhaps would be able to start taking medication sooner to further limit the extent of the damage.


Written by SCL

July 27, 2010 at 6:21 am

Posted in sick

6 Responses

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  1. I never had shingles but my mom and sister both did as you know. I do think being in good physical shape does make a big difference in the healing process and also the pain. I am really glad you didn’t and aren’t suffering with the nerve pain that so many older folks get.

    And the fact that you ran 15 days in a row is pretty amazing!!!! :O)


    July 27, 2010 at 3:59 pm

  2. What is it with shingles this year? My husband had it over Memorial Day too (right on his face! Yech!) after getting sunburned. Then, about a month later, one of my co-workers’ sister got it. I’ve learned far more about shingles in the last six months than I ever thought I’d know. Glad your case was a mild one!

    Mrs. Duffy

    July 29, 2010 at 6:45 pm

  3. Hey thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad to read that you were able to deal with it and get past it for the most part. It’s not a pleasant thing to go through.

    gaf shingles

    August 2, 2010 at 7:25 pm

  4. hi all (aged 61) male
    Mine started from nowhere about 2 weeks ago.
    First noticed my left side torso was sensitive to touch, no pain, 2 days later, my rib cage started to hurt, like a sprain, and my stomach was aching as well.
    After 2 more days I felt no better,and so went to docs.
    She diagnosed enlarged Spleen !!!! And sent me for blood tests, that was over the weekend. The next evening (Saturday)I was just feeling round my back area and felt these spots !!!! Hadn`t felt them before and living on my own noone else to tell me !!
    I immediately looked on net and realised it was shingles, that sometimes can mimick other disorders.
    Went back to doc on Monday and he confirmed it was Shingles and pout me on Anti Viral tabs.
    It is now one week since the spots were first noticed and they have erupted good and proper, all over my left side. Have felt as if I have been kicked by a herd of elephants, almost everything aches, and it rteally does feel like a bad case of Flu. Oddly little pain, a bit of itching, very tender, but not painful as such. Whether the antivirals have helped that, I dont know.
    Spots have just started weeping now, so hope the tenderness goes along with them, got my Calamine lotion at hand in case not.
    But has made me feel quite `low` during this.
    Hope this helps any one else.


    August 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

  5. I am currently getting over shingles. Two days before I broke out with a rash my right side around my ribs hurt so bad I had to sleep on my stomach. When I finally broke out with a rash I thought it was because I had started thyroid meds. Changed the meds. To make a long story short, once I realized I had shingles, it was a Friday afternoon. The meds the docs give you, you have to start within 72 hours. I could not get in to a doc, so I went to our local Herb Store. Started taking VRL-X. Took 5 pills a day instead of the 4 by the directions. I also took 1000 mgs of vitamin C and alot of B. Do not put lotions or any thing to keep this virus wet. Take baths with Aveeno Oatmeal. I still have some pretty ugly scabs but I don’t hurt any more. This thing is viral! I was down for 3 days, very sick to my stomach and totally tired. Docs want to give steroids and all kinds of bad stuff that is bad for your body. I am getting over this in 6 days. The experience was horrible, at one point I thought I might have to go to the ER. But here I sit right now, I can lean back or lay now without pain. I have the out break that goes around your right side from the middle of your stomach to your spine. I am finally comfortable. NO MEDS, just herbs and oatmeal bath. Every one should try it!


    November 10, 2010 at 11:23 pm

  6. I developed shingles 6 days after running the Boston Marathon at age 55. The symptoms started with what looked like peeling after a sunburn on my right shoulder. This soon progressed to a rash that I thought was heat rash. When it lasted for a couple days, I went to see my doctor who immediately diagnosed it as shingles. Was I ever surprised. She prescribed a steroidal cream that worked good for the discomfort. The worst of the symptoms were gone in less than a week. I believe my immune system was weakened by the marathon but the symptoms were mild and didn’t last long. I’m going to ask to get the vaccine.

    Hank Doni

    May 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm

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