A Boston Marathon Without Running

3 minute read


Fifteen minutes before boarding the car to the starting line, I passed out. My doctor had suggested I take two puffs of albuterol sulfate before racing so that my mild asthma would not kick in during the race. When I passed out after one puff, I was confused about whether I was awake or asleep. Once I regained consciousness, I went to open my hotel room door and used a trash can to block the door so that it wouldn’t close. I grabbed my phone and was about to call 911 as I went to prone position. I crawled to the bathroom to throw up my breakfast and determine if I should call. After vomiting, I felt nauseous but nothing life threatening. I checked my Coros watch and it showed my heart rate had dropped to 65, rather than my usual 74. Then I told my friends to leave without me since I would not be able to run.

When I got back from Boston to Iowa Tuesday afternoon, I was so weak I lay on the floor of the airport gate for an hour before picking up my car. I still felt dizzy when I started driving. Before I got on the highway, I threw up everything into the Boston Marathon bag I had brought with me, then drove 45 minutes, straight to the urgent care before going home. The doctor there, Jessica, did an EKG, blood test, and COVID test. The COVID came back negative, the blood test showed mild dehydration, and the EKG showed some potential problem I could not understand. I was referred to the Emergency Room since the urgent care could not tell what exactly was wrong with my EKG reading. I spent three hours in the ER and another 17 hours in Mary Greeley hospital before I was discharged. Fortunately, they did not find any major concerns after a series of tests.

I threw up three times Monday and twice on Tuesday. The reason for my passing out and vomiting is that I went from horizontal to vertical too soon and held my breath while using the asthma inhaler. Both the sudden standing up and breath-holding caused insufficient oxygen flow to my brain.

Quite an experience for my Boston trip. I was lucky it happened before instead of during the race. My English vocabulary expanded during this process as well. Here are two phrases I picked up after seeing a few doctors:

Vasovagal syncope:

  • va·so·va·gal: | ˌveɪzoʊˈveɪɡ(ə) l, ˌvæsoʊˈveɪɡ(ə)l |: relating to or denoting a temporary fall in blood pressure, with pallor, fainting, sweating and nausea, caused by overactivity of the vagus nerve, especially as a result of stress.
  • syn·co·pe: | ˈsɪŋkəpi |: temporary loss of consciousness caused by a fall in blood pressure.

Orthostatic hypotension:

  • or·tho·stat·ic: | ˌɔrθəˈstædɪk |: relating to or caused by an upright posture.
  • hy·po·ten·sion: | ˌhaɪpəˈtɛnʃən |: abnormally low blood pressure.

Other lessons I have learned:

  1. Try to share a hotel room with my running buddy if I race out of town.
  2. When I feel dizzy, lie on the floor while lifting my legs against the wall. This allows blood to flow quickly to the brain.
  3. When I vomit, take small sips of water or Gatorade frequently for a few hours, then try eating easy-to-digest food like crackers or bananas.

Do you remember what the Terminator said?

“I’ll be back!”