After much thought on my next marathon, I’ve decided to downgrade to the half marathon at Jacksonville in December. I had intended to run the full but in light of some new discoveries, my coach and I decided it would be best to push that next full into a different race for 2019. So, what’s the story?
Well, let’s look back at Chicago. And my training. I did all of the training – in the Florida heat and felt pretty tired through most of it. I felt like garbage in Chicago and after. And I still feel really wiped out after long runs. My coach suggested I have my blood work done to see if I am low on iron and/or ferritin. And, as it turns out, I am. And I’m not. Wait, what? Let me explain.
*First up, what’s ferritin? According to the internet, it’s an “intracellular protein that stores iron and releases it in a controlled fashion.” In reviewing my blood work, my ferritin was at 33. Now, for normal people, meaning non-runners, the levels are quantified as 12-300 for men and 12-150 for women, so this would mean I was good to go. Right? Eh….
The internet says that this number with regards to performance feels different for everyone and that the recommended numbers are probably different from those who are sedentary. Iron, in general, is needed by everyone but a surplus is good for runners as without it, we experience fatigue and that can cause a drop in performance. (Please understand I am not a doctor, this is just all internet research and working with my coach.)
Everyone loses iron in the same ways: through their feet from striking the ground while running, through sweat (ah, hello, Florida), and through the intestines (AKA pooping). But we women are especially lucky and also lose it through our monthly visitor. Apparently, female runners are more likely to be iron deficient because their dietary intake of iron tends to be poor. I mean, I like red meat now and again, but I am pretty terrible at leafy green vegetables. And to top it all off, training induces an additional loss of iron. Awesome.
I’ve read that ferritin levels in some studies for women suggest the minimum be raised to 40, and that elite runners try to get their ferritin levels up into 70. Some of this is trial and error and having blood work done regularly throughout training. Now that I know mine could use an increase, I will take a supplement and wait for the two to three months for it to raise my levels to see if I feel better. Unfortunately, since it is getting cooler out it may be tough to decide if I feel better due to the ferritin or if it’s just no longer 11 billion degrees. The true test will come next summer.
I’m not sure why this wouldn’t have been a problem for me before now, but I ain’t no spring chicken and we do know how things change as we age. I am not sold on this being a magic bullet and all of the sudden I start crushing races like I’m Mo Farrah, but I don’t think the iron supplement can hurt. I plan to take it with Vitamin C for better absorption and pay attention to any side effects I may encounter. I will keep you all posted on this as I start taking the supplement this week. Fingers crossed.
*Again, not a doctor. These are just my opinions and research on this matter. If you think you have low iron/ferritin, go get blood work done. See a doctor.